Argonne National Laboratory

Compute, Code, Create!
“Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.” – Stephen Hawking


What do you think makes a good computer scientist? Is it fast typing skills? The ability to code for hours on end? A fast computer with a big screen? It turns out that computers are to computer scientists what a canvas and brushes are to an artist: tools. The computer is essential for computer scientists to do their job, but without computational thinking, it is impossible to program a computer. In this learning lab, students will work in teams to solve problems using Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots. Students will use the same computational thinking skills with the robots that Argonne scientists use when tackling society’s greatest challenges with the world's sixth fastest supercomputer.


  • For Students
    • Challenging and Rewarding: Learn how Persistence is a key scientific disposition for computational thinking.
    • Decompostion: Learn how computer scientists solve complex problems by breaking them down into manageable parts.
  • For Teachers
    • Promoting Persistence: Students will write instructions (code) for their robots to accomplish tasks presented by the facilitators. Tasks will be both challenging and rewarding, and struggling will be an important part of the scientific and engineering process.
    • How to Get Involved: Please sit back and observe. We welcome your feedback. If you are interested in being more involved in the students’ experience, during group work time, we welcome you to listen to your students and help them articulate their ideas in their own words. Allow students to try out ideas that you know may fail and guide them in strategies to isolate the problem. Alert facilitators to any technology problems or help students troubleshoot if you are comfortable.

What the Students Will Be Doing

Student teams of 3-4 will complete a series of fun and confidence-building challenges using a Lego Mindstorm EV3 robot. The challenges, designed by Argonne Learning Instructors, cover important aspects of computational thinking such as symbolic thinking, algorithms, pseudocoding, debugging, iterative (loop) thinking, conditionals and booleans, all in an entry-level and age-appropriate way. All challenges use a visual (block-based) language shown to be a great way to introduce authentic coding concepts without the distraction of syntax issues. The experience culminates in a final challenge – teams will use their robots to navigate a specially designed maze where multiple solutions are possible.

No previous robotics or coding experience is necessary.


Featured NGSS Science and Engineering Practices


  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

NGSS Alignment

NGSS 3D Learning