Previous Special Projects Award Winners

Since 2003 SIGCSE has awarded a limited number of Special Projects Grants each year. These grants help SIGCSE members investigate and introduce new ideas in the learning and teaching of computing. Projects must provide some clear benefit to the wider disciplinary community in the form of new knowledge, developing or sharing of a resource, or good practice in learning, teaching, or assessment.

Here is a list of previous awards:

CS Identity Development Interview Project
Amanpreet Kapoor (
Christina Gardner-McCune
University of Florida
Award: $3,078
Award date: June, 2018

This project focuses on the development of professional identity in computer science students. Drs. Kapoor and Gardner-McCune will identify ways in which computer science students engage in communities of practice and will measure the amount of time students spend in professional experiences outside the classroom. The impact of these experiences on the development of professional identity will be explored through a qualitative study. The results of the study will include profiles of successful students and recommendations for faculty.

Developing a Serious Game to Reinforce Introductory Programming Concepts
Devorah Kletenik, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Deborah Sturm, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Award: $5,000
Award date: June, 2018

Drs. Kletenik and Sturm will create a game to introduce programming concepts to undergraduate students. The game will include a storyline, sound effects, graphics, power-ups and short quiz-like challenges. It will provide students with an opportunity to practice their programming skills. The game is intended for a broad audience; gamers and non-gamers, females and underrepresented groups will be consulted during the creation of the game. In addition, a wide-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of the game will be performed. The game will be available as a WebGL and will be playable in a browser without downloading or installation. It will be released under a Free Software license, enabling others to modify the game if so desired.

Developing and Testing Activities Introducing Elementary School Students to Artificial Intelligence
David Touretzky (
Carnegie Mellon University
Award: $4,440
Award date: June, 2018

Dr. Touretzky will develop hands-on activities designed to introduce elementary school children to artificial intelligence concepts. Activities will include topics such as computer vision, face and voice recognition, speech generation, navigation and robotics. The project will include twice-weekly instruction for over 300 elementary school children during academic year 2018-2019. Learning outcomes and student interest in AI will be measured. In addition, PowerPoint slides and supplementary materials will be developed for the classroom teachers. Materials will be cataloged in a resource directory supported by the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA).

An Analysis and Interpretation Framework for Student Engagement Benchmarking Data
Michael Morgan (
Matthew Butler (
Jane Sinclair (
Chris Gonsalvez (
Monash University, AUS
Award: $4,800
Award date: November, 2017

This project will provide a framework for analyzing benchmark data to improve student engagement in Computer Science. Currently there is no widely used systematic process to evaluate and interpret student engagement data. This project will develop an analysis framework which Computer Science departments can apply to their own data sets. Dr. Morgan’s team will analyze the data set for the Australian Student Experience Survey from 2012 to 2016, comparing the performance of Monash University Computer Science courses against the performance of Computer Science courses at other universities in Australia. Results will be interpreted through the lens of relevant student engagement literature. By performing this analysis, the project aims to provide other Computer Science educators with a framework for the analysis of benchmarking data such as the North American National Survey of Student Engagement, the United Kingdom Engagement Survey and similar instruments.

CQDR: Clicker Question Data Repository
Jaime Spacco (
Knox College, USA
Award: $4,000
Award date: November, 2017

Dr. Spacco will expand and improve an online repository of clicker questions that have been used in courses using Peer Instruction. An existing website ( has complete slide decks for multiple courses containing clicker questions. This project will result in the addition of information about the questions themselves including what percent of students answered the question correctly on the first and second votes; whether the question is an identical or modified version of a question used in a previous iteration of the course; whether a question was adopted from another instructor, and if so, whether it is identical or modified; and comments or suggestions from other PI instructors about the question. The data will help instructors to determine both the difficulty and the relative value of each clicker question. The repository will be publicly available.

How Do We Teach Debugging?
Andrew Luxton-Reilly (
Ewan Tempero (
University of Auckland, NZ
Award: $4,850
Award date: November, 2017

Drs. Luxton-Reilly and Tempero will address the difficulties of teaching and learning debugging by undertaking a detailed study of existing resources. They will analyze debugging materials included in introductory textbooks after creating a taxonomy for analysis. After a rigorous search for online materials that teach debugging strategies, the authors will create an online repository. The repository will make it easier for instructors to locate appropriate resources and direct students to them. In addition, a literature review of research relating to teaching debugging to novices will be published.

Computing Educators Oral History Project (CEOHP) Growth: Awardee Interviews and Website Update
* Interim project report
Vicki Almstrum,
Barbara Boucher Owens,
Award: $5,000
Award date: May, 2017

Drs. Almstrum and Owens plan to extend the collection of oral interviews documenting the history of computing educators. This project will increase the number of interviews with winners of the SIGCSE Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education Award and the SIGCSE Lifetime Service Award, with an emphasis on those who live in countries other than the United States. In addition, the project will entail a significant reworking of the CEOHP website which serves as a repository for the oral interviews.

Understanding Movement
Amber Wagner
Birmingham-Southern College
Award: $1,060
Award date: May, 2017

Dr. Wagner will develop a project-based course for novice computer science students intended to demonstrate the relevance of computing. Inspired by ESPN’s Sport Science, students will combine physiology with computer science to build wearable devices to measure the force or speed of various movements. Assignments will be designed to use the Arduino 101 to collect and analyze movement data. For the final project, students will first determine the types of movements they wish to measure, and then they will build their wearables. With the help of an athletic trainer, they will assemble an analysis of the data to summarize the force and/or speed of the movements. A detailed curriculum guide will be published for use by other educators.

Active Learning Materials for Computer Architecture and Organization
* Final project report

Brandon Myers
University of Iowa
Award: $5,000
Award date: May, 2017

Dr. Myers will develop eight Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activities for use in Computer Organization and Architecture classes. Exercises will be based on the learning outcomes defined in the 2013 ACM/IEEE Computer Science Curriculum Guidelines. POGIL is based on a theory of instruction which includes the learning cycle of exploration, term introduction, and application. The activities will be available to other instructors via

Inclusive Apps: Supporting Mobile Accessibility Standards through Educational Exercises
* Final project report

Yasmine N. El-Glaly,
Daniel E. Krutz,
Rochester Institute of Technology
Award: $3,800
Award date: December, 2016

Drs. El-Glaly and Krutz will create a publicly accessible oracle of mobile applications which will define problems relating to the accessibility of mobile applications for individuals with disabilities. The oracle will contain a library of well-defined accessibility problems, provide details about the accessibility issues, and demonstrate the difficulties experienced by users with different needs or who are differently abled. The oracle will outline steps to modify each application to make it accessible to users affected by the accessibility issue. The oracle will be available for use at other educational institutions to support software development and accessibility related courses.

What Exactly Are We Expecting Our Novice Programming Students to Achieve?
Brett A. Becker
University College Dublin
Award: $4,700
Award date: December, 2016

Dr. Brett Becker will collect, categorize and analyze the learning outcome statements of CS1 courses across a large, diverse set of institutions, providing an answer to the question: What exactly are we expecting our novice programming students to achieve? This will allow the CS education community to decide if, as recent evidence has suggested, we have unrealistic expectations of our CS1 students. The outputs of this research will provide a starting point for the CS education community to adjust its expectations of novice programmers, resulting in improvements in failure rates, retention, diversity and equity in CS education. Upon completion of the project an online repository of CS1 learning outcomes will be available to, and updatable by, the CS education community.

Making Block Languages Accessible
Richard E. Ladner
University of Washington
Award: $4,064
Award date: May, 2016

Block languages such as Scratch, Snap!, Alice, Blockly, App Inventor, ScratchJr, and others, have opened up programming and problem solving to millions of children worldwide. This project will make block languages accessible to blind children so they can have the same opportunities as their sighted peers. Most blind children in the US are already familiar with smartphones and tablets including the gestures used to navigate and spatially understand what is on a touchscreen. This project will extend the open source Blockly language by building on touchscreen phone applications.

The Dawn of Computing: Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine
* Final project report
* Instructors materials
* Instructors guide
* Gamebook

Mark M. Meysenburg
Doane University
Award: $3,000
Award date: May, 2016

Dr. Meysenburg will create a Reacting to the Past role-playing game, "The Dawn of Computing: Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine," regarding British polymath Charles Babbage and his quest to build his difference engine. The game can be used in general-audience first-year seminar courses, to encourage students to study computing. Reacting to the Past games revolve around debate, with groups of students divided into factions aligned to different sides of the issue at hand. The central issue at stake in “The Dawn of Computing: Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine” will be whether or not Babbage should be awarded funds from the British government for the development of the difference engine, first in 1823 and then in an ongoing manner. The outcome will be in the hands of the students.

A Tutoring System for Red Black Trees
* Final project report

Chun Wai Liew
Lafayette College
Award: $4,387
Award date: May, 2016

A web based tutoring system will be developed to help students learn top-down insertion and deletion algorithms in balanced trees, specifically in red-black trees. The tutoring system will help students recognize the preconditions for single and double rotation transformations. The system will allow instructors to provide problems and will automatically generate solution paths.

To see more awards use the links below: