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A Field Guide for the Science of Computation

Project Objectives

Many scientists, engineers, and students see computing as a technology field but not a field of science or engineering. This project’s long-range objective is to replace this with a new understanding, that computing is great domain of science, on par with the physical, life, and social sciences. This new understanding will make the field more attractive for students and science collaborators. This project directly supports the three main CPATH goals.  

  • It contributes to US competitiveness by providing a scientific framework for computing, which will advance technology development and attract many more bright students, including more women and underrepresented groups.  
  • It increases the number of students developing computational thinking by offering new learning possibilities, for undergraduates as well as for pre-college students.  
  • It is transformative because it brings forward a science framework for computing, which has not been done before
 Click image for Cyber Adventurers page  NPS Faculty, Researchers Promote Computer 
Science in, Beyond Local Community
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Computing Field (

Project Approach

Our plan is to develop a body of content that presents the deep insights of scientific theories of computing, attuned by field testing to a broad range of students, from middle school through graduate school. We will structure this content as a service, the Field Guide to the Science of Computation, which organizes the scientific theories in a framework of seven categories – computation, communication, coordination, recollection, automation, evaluation, and design. In addition to the seven categories, the field guide will support two orientations (end-use and instruction), three perspectives (mathematics, science, and engineering), and four levels of entry (beginner, intermediate, advanced, and research). The content will be developed, tested, evaluated, delivered, and sustained over time by a collaboration network that includes the lead institutions (NPS and UA), their local education partners (BASIS and Hartnell College), the ACM Education Board, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), LabRats, and CS Unplugged.  An external evaluator will measure the effectiveness of the content and field guide to attain the project goals.

Our network includes representatives of pre-college age groups because we want to influence computational thinking not only in present undergraduate programs and students, but in future programs and the students.  ACM reaches deeply into the all the sectors, especially college.  CSTA has reaches deeply into the K-12 school system.  LabRats and CS Unplugged are well-regarded grass roots approaches that involve kids in computation and science.  We will also work with ACM to host the field guide and to bring the science framework to its body of knowledge for computing.

Intellectual Merit

The project brings to the fore an underappreciated side of computing: that it is a great domain of science based on sound scientific theories and first principles. Computation science offer deep insights and surprising predictions, and an experimental method to validate predictions and make discoveries.

Broader Impacts

By reaching out from hard-core computer science to representatives of different age groups, the project will find ways to convey the science message to many generations. It will also provide solid grounding for other scientists to interact with computer scientists as peers in the search for new discoveries.
Peter J. Denning (NPS) and Rick Snodgrass (U Arizona)


Naval Postgraduate School, "Cyber Warriors Professional Another Sign of Evolving Battlefield" by Kenneth A. Stewart

The IEEE News Source, "The Future of Computing" by Kathy Pretz 

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