Project Profile

Using Flow-Based Music Programming to Engage Children in Computer Science


Achieving the goal of broadening participation in the computer science (CS) workforce will require that children have access to early opportunities to engage with CS. However, the reality is that most underrepresented children in elementary schools do not have access to CS at all. To remediate that lack of access, this project seeks to create a deeply engaging music-based CS education program and curriculum, M-Flow, that can be easily adopted by elementary schools. Computer music provides an excellent opportunity to broaden engagement in CS, as music is intrinsically connected with student identities, and it shares so many structural and historical connections with computing. M-Flow is a flow-based programming platform geared toward children in fifth grade. In flow-based programming platforms, lines of code are replaced by a graphic flowchart that uses boxes and arrows to represent process and connections. This project will explore the conjecture that a flow-based programming platform may be well-suited for novice coders to rapidly develop applications and for non-specialized teachers to implement in classrooms. Outputs of the project will include a 10 hour curriculum, teacher professional development, career awareness videos, and a browser-based programming platform accessible to anyone with internet access.

The project will engage a team of teacher-leaders and curriculum experts to co-design learning modules, employing an iterative Design-Based Research to investigate how the program engages underrepresented elementary school learners in computing and music learning. The team will also develop career awareness videos and video tutorials, recruiting young underrepresented professionals to feature from San Diego Chapter of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers. With a larger population of teachers and students the project will study how the revised flow based music programming platform is perceived and used by students and teachers, and where scaffolds are needed; how flow-based music programming influences teachers' dispositions towards CS and interest in adoption of CS activities in the classrooms; and how flow-based music programming influences students learning of CS and interest in CS careers. Data includes video recordings and observations of classroom use, pre and post interviews and think-alouds, focus groups, semi-structured interviews, performance assessments, attitude surveys, and clickstream data. The intellectual merit of the research lies in its exploration of the utility of a flow-based programming approach for engaging young novice learners with computer science. The project has the potential to make large broader impacts via its web-based distribution model, which would allow teachers to readily adopt the curriculum, potentially engaging thousands of young learners in Computer Science activities. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This project is also funded through the CS for All: Research and RPPs program.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


Social Media


Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
2241714, 2241715
Project Duration
2023 - 2027
Developing and Testing Innovations (DTI)
University of California-San Diego, CA
University of Florida
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Elementary school (K-5)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Computer and informational technology science
Target Participants
Hispanic/Latino participants
English learners
Students eligible for free lunch or reduced-price lunch