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Squared cs academy canvas
A novel, world-class, online, interactive high school computer science curriculum that is entirely free.

CMU CS Academy

The K-8 space is filled with engaging yet simple CS content. The next time many students see CS is in an AP computer science class. Schools are lacking engaging curriculum to bridge the continuum. CS Academy bridges this gap with an engaging graphics package that allows for creativity while students write text-based code in Python.

CS1 course description


This free CS1 curriculum is inspired by a highly successful Intro Computing course (15-112, Fundamentals of Programming and Computer Science) that has been taught at Carnegie Mellon University for the past 10+ years. It is predicated on the notion that learning about programming and computer science should be fun and engaging. This requires interesting problems to solve, as computational problem-solving is the core of computer science. It is why we choose to first expose students to graphical problems in the first Unit of CS1: they are visually engaging, allow for multiple correct solutions, and provide visual cues when a solution goes awry.


There are 12 Units to the course, using the custom graphics package and non-graphical contexts. The course is split up into two parts, CS1a (units 1-7) and CS1b (units 8-12) so that it can be taught as a year long course or two semester based courses. We believe the best way to learn this material is to do it, so each Unit provides content for the topic to be investigated, a worked problem(s) to illustrate and let students explore the topic, a set of exercises to hone their mastery of the topic, some end-of-unit exercises that require students to use and synthesize all the topics found in that Unit, and a creative task that lets them further explores the topics in the Unit in a manner driven by their interests.


As students progress the course alternates between graphics and non-graphics contexts to ensure students have a wide exposure to the richness of computational domains in which to solve problems. We expect students will have greater affinity for some domains more than others, but we want to ensure that all students are exposed to all domains. At the end of the course, students will have engaged in a substantial learning experience and should be able to computationally solve a wide range of problems.


The course provides its own browser-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that the students will use to create and run their programs. It encompasses an editor and compiler, a custom graphics package, and an autograder that is capable of grading not only textual problems and solutions but also a broad range of graphics problems and solutions. 

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Intended Outcomes
13 - 18
Age Group
Resources Needed

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If you are interested in learning more here is a link to Carnegie Mellon University's press release describing the curriculum.
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CMU CS Academy is a free, online, interactive computer science curriculum for high schools that is engaging, creative, rigorous and fun. CS Academy also includes teacher training, an online interactive textbook, online technical support and more!
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Erin Cawley
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