Georgia Tech awarded NSF grant to combine the arts and computer science in Georgia high schools

October 7, 2016

Atlanta, GA

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a four-year, $3 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will expand an innovative approach to computer science education in high schools across Georgia. The grant extends NSF funding of EarSketch, a project that was established in 2011 by researchers in Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. EarSketch uses musical remixes to introduce high school students—especially minorities and young women—to the world of computer programming.

EarSketch has already been used in K-12 pilot studies (including two Georgia high schools, summer camps in Georgia and other states, and Liberia) within the past year. However, the new NSF grant will allow Georgia Tech researchers to expand EarSketch to 30 Georgia high schools by creating a web-based version of the program. They will also create an online training system for teachers and specialized curricula in conjunction with Computer Science Principles, a new computing course with standards defined by the Georgia Department of Education and the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program.

“We believe that incorporating EarSketch into high school computer science programs will increase and broaden student participation and engagement in the field throughout the state,” said Jason Freeman, the associate professor in the School of Music who is principal investigator on the grant.

The NSF award is the largest grant ever associated with the Institute’s Center for Music Technology and School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC). Freeman is co-leading the EarSketch effort with Brian Magerko, an LMC associate professor of Digital Media.

“EarSketch is another indicator of Georgia Tech’s commitment to and recognition of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education,” said Magerko. “It’s also a project that seeks to increase diversity and arts and technology throughout Georgia and, eventually, the nation.”

EarSketch utilizes the Python programming language and JavaScript, along with digital audio workstation techniques similar to those used in recording studios throughout the music industry. Students learn how to code by remixing samples, beats, and loops created by industry veterans to create their own musical tracks.

The new NSF grant will allow Freeman and Magerko to build a fully usable online learning environment. Through a collaboration with researchers Douglas Edwards and Roxanne Moore at Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), it will also provide teachers with a systems-level understanding of best practices and challenges for implementing EarSketch and similar STEAM approaches within high school courses.

“The project has the potential to fundamentally change how computing is taught while also bridging the gap for women and minorities in computing,” said Freeman.

Freeman taught EarSketch during a massive open online course (MOOC) in 2013 that attracted 24,000 students. The course will be offered again this fall. The EarSketch learning environment and curriculum are freely available at

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Jason Maderer
National Media Relations