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SPARCS trains middle school teachers in the basics of Computer Science.

SPARCS aims to help participants incorporate CS lessons into the classes they teach, and inspire their students to consider careers in computing-related industries. It is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program.

We are seeking middle and high school teachers to participate in the summer 2019 program. Teachers from all disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, language arts, social studies, etc.) are welcome! Prior experience with programming is not required.

This year, SPARCS will be conducted as a series of short independent workshops, distilling the best practices gleaned from our experience running SPARCS for the past 4 years.

Schedule for Summer 2019 Workshops

Workshop Description Dates
Problem Solving Workshop
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Introduces the computational problem-solving process.
  • Participants will generate ideas for problem-based lessons that involve some computer science know-how.
  • Open to all teachers.
June 5-7,
July 10-12
Design Workshop
  • Duration: 5 days
  • Introduces approaches for designing computing or programming solutions and lessons.
  • Open to any teacher who has some idea of a problem needing a computational solution (e.g., an app, a game, a simulation, etc.) they would like to use in class.
  • Teachers who attended the problem-solving workshop may also view this as a continuation.
  • Participants will use a variety of design approaches and technologies to create solutions to their problem independently, guided by workshop facilitators.
June 10-14,
July 15-19
App Lab Workshop
  • Duration: 5 days
  • Learn programming using's App Lab environment.
  • Each session is divided into two parts:
    • - Part I (3 days): Basics of App Lab
    • - Part II (2 days): App Lab projects
    • (Teachers can sign up for Part I only or Parts I + II)
June 24-28,
July 22-26
Master Teacher Workshop
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Prepares master teachers to host their own SPARCS-based workshops.
  • Open only to previous SPARCS master teachers.
June 3-4,
June 17-18,
July 8-9

* Workshop times are 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. All activities will be at UNO's Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) building.



Participating teachers will receive stipends of $100/day. Participants may sign up for multiple workshops. Lunch will be provided.

Additional compensation of $500 will be awarded in December 2019 if teachers present proof of SPARCS-based lesson used in class in Fall 2019.



Please fill out the application form. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting May 20, 2019.

Applications for a given workshop will close one week before the scheduled session. A session may be canceled if there are fewer than 5 participants signed up one week before the session.

Questions? Email Harvey Siy at


To keep pace with today's computer and technology-driven workforce, strategies that foster student investment in Computer Science (CS) education are sorely needed. SPARCS is a NSF-supported project that targets this need. SPARCS is a collaborative effort between University of Nebraska at Omaha faculty in Computer Science and Teacher Education Departments, and industry partners from major Omaha area businesses. It is aimed at significantly increasing the number of middle school students in the metropolitan Omaha area and the State of Nebraska who have access to Computer Science education opportunities and ultimately enhanced interdisciplinary career pathways in computing.

CS careers are among the fastest-growing job sectors today. The realization that there will be a million more computing-related jobs than graduates by 2020 has led to many initiatives for promoting CS education. SPARCS builds on the momentum of initiatives such as National CS Education Week and Hour of Code by giving middle school students continuing exposure to computing concepts throughout the school year in a way that authentically connects to existing age-appropriate learning objectives and students' personal interests. Lesson modules will teach students how to use computational thinking to investigate problems that matter to them. This empowers students to dive deeper into computing by providing them with strategic, stimulating, and integrated CS experiences, and sparking their curiosity in computing-enabled career trajectories. Middle school is arguably the most critical period in influencing students educational pathways and career choices. Unfortunately, current middle school curricula are desperately lacking in CS instruction and exposure.

SPARCS tackles this challenge by developing and supporting a cohort of middle school teachers trained in the basic principles and practices of computer science and helping them to infuse computational thinking into middle schoolers' latent creativity and capacity for problem-solving. The project team will achieve this goal by adopting a new teaching and learning model that consists of (1) a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach that cultivates creative, inquiry-driven thinking, and (2) a Personalized Implementation Portfolio (PIP) strategy that collaboratively enables teachers to integrate customizable CS lesson modules into their school's existing STEM curricula. The PBL lessons will draw upon computing-related problems from the teachers' areas of discipline and from business and industrial partners. 

Principal Investigators

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number DRL-1433788.