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The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) of the National Science Foundation recently released a revised solicitation for the CISE Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education (CPATH) Program. The CPATH solicitation (NSF 09-528) can be found at (

Information about preparing NSF proposals can be found in Chapter II of the Grant Proposal Guide ( This includes guidelines about page limits, font size and type limits, and other information particularly important to new proposers.

NSF requires that all proposals specifically address the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in both the Project Summary and Project Description section. CPATH PIs should include sections with the headings Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact in their Project Summaries to avoid possible violation of this rule with resulting return of the proposal without review.

Frequently asked questions about the following topics are answered below.

  1. CPATH program changes in 2009
  2. Computational Thinking approaches
  3. K-12 activities
  4. Broadening participation focus
  5. Computing focus and departments
  6. Evaluation of CPATH projects
  7. Planning grants
  8. Multi-institutional projects
  9. Funding history and future of CPATH program
  10. PI limitations
  11. Demonstration of institutional or community support
  12. Projects with a computer science education research focus
  13. Community college involvement
  14. Resource and Tool Development
  15. Other NSF programs of interest
  16. NSF program officers to contact
  17. Computational Thinking resources

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. CPATH changes for 2009
    Q. What has changed in CPATH from the 2008 solicitation?
    A: There are 3 major changes:
    1. The new solicitation emphasizes the development of student competencies in computing concepts, methods, technologies, and tools broadly classified as Computational Thinking.
    2. There is a streamlined award structure into two class tracks, Class I and Class II. Projects in each class are differentiated by the budget, scope of the work, and size of the team. Activities previously proposed in the Community Building and Institutional Transformation tracks may now be proposed to the Class I and II tracks.
    3. The solicitation is now for multiple years, with firm dates established for 2009 and 2010. The anticipated amount of funding available for each competition has been raised from $5 million to $10 million dollars.

    Q: What types of activities and projects are envisioned under the new solicitation?

    A: It is anticipated that CPATH will continue to support community building, planning, and institutional transformation type activities. The new structure provides space for the projects that involve both community building and institutional transformation activities, as is typical of most CPATH projects. Projects should be transformative and inclusive in nature. They should develop new, innovative models for undergraduate computing education and nurture computing communities to sustain them. They may include communities adopting or adapting models already proven to be successful. They are usually multi-disciplinary and are led by broad-based faculty groups.

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  2. Computational Thinking approaches
    Q: Must I include Computational Thinking (CT) in my proposal?
    A: Yes, all CPATH proposals must demonstrate how Computational Thinking is incorporated within the project. Since CT is fundamental to virtually all disciplines, this should be a natural part of any transformative vision focusing on a single discipline or across disciplines.

    Q. Must Computational Thinking (CT) be the primary focus of my project?
    A. No, CT does not have to be the primary focus but should be a major part of the vision to achieve your goals. NSF has described a broad CT framework, but does not attempt to define the computing constructs. You are invited to join in the definition and articulation of the computing constructs that have permeated and transformed our modern world and to use these to develop methods, curricula, and pedagogies to assure that all students are able to think computationally. This can take many forms and utilize many vehicles, including most if not all of the programs that were outlined in previous solicitations. You will need to explain how your project connects to and addresses the CT vision.

    Q. Where can I find more information about Computational Thinking?
    A. See item 17 below for the resource list.

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  3. Involvement of K-12 students and teachers
    Q: Does CPATH support activities involving K-12 students and teachers?
    A: CPATH is focused on undergraduate computing education. CPATH does provide for modest engagement of secondary teachers and students as CPATH projects. The overall goals of the project should focus on undergraduate education and not primarily on K-12 education. Involvement of K-12 teachers and students as part of bigger overall vision is encouraged. Investigators interested in projects involving computing experiences for K-12 education might consider the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) or Broadening Participation in Computing Programs (BPC).

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  4. Broadening participation focus
    Q: We plan to submit a project to increase the number of women in undergraduate computing. It will include recruitment, mentoring, special courses, and training of faculty to encourage diversity. How does this fit into CPATH?
    A: CPATH is focused on systemic change impacting undergraduate computing education at all levels. Many CPATH projects and activities may result in new pathways and opportunities that might attract a broader audience of students and faculty and thus result in broadening participation. CPATH projects must focus on goals related to fundamentally changing the nature of undergraduate computing education rather than on strategies for recruitment and supporting broadening participation.

    Q: Where can I seek funding for projects with a broadening participation focus?
    A: There are many programs within NSF that focus on broadening participation in the sciences and in particular with computing and technology. Many of these are found within the Education Directorate or within the directorate linked to the specific scientific discipline impacted. The Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE) offers the Broadening Participation in Computing Program (BPC) for projects focused on computer science or computing.

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  5. Computing focus, computer science departments, and other departments
    Q: Which departments can participate in CPATH?
    A: At least one PI or Co-PI must come from the community served by CISE which includes academic units typically titled: Computing, Computer Science, Information Systems, Information Technology, Computer Engineering, Human Centered Computing, Multimedia, Internet Sciences, Informatics, Information Resource Management, Management Information Systems, Computational Sciences, as well as others not included in this list. However, faculty members of other multi-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary groups (for example, Bioinformatics) are also eligible providing that the focus of the unit is on the role of computing within or across disciplines.

    Q: Is CPATH just for computer science departments?
    No. CPATH’s mission is to transform computing education nationally. While proposals may be submitted by traditional computer science departments, CPATH’s target audience is broad. Proposals that involve multiple units, departments, colleges, campuses, and universities working together with other non-academic stakeholders are encouraged. One of the goals of CPATH is to blur many traditional departmental boundaries.

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  6. Evaluation of CPATH projects
    Q: Do planning projects and other Class 1 projects need to include evaluation?
    A: Yes, all CPATH projects must include evaluation and assessment of the outcomes of the project. The level and depth of the evaluation should reflect the scope and overall size of the project. All CPATH projects are expected to participate in and provide data to the CPATH programmatic evaluation effort that is being conducted by an independent contractor.

    Q: Must I provide for an external evaluator or evaluation team in my proposal?
    A: All Class 2 projects must include provisions for an external evaluator or evaluation team. The evaluator must be external to the units impacted by the project and not involved in the major implementation activities of the project. Evaluators do not have to be Co-PIs. Thus, in some cases where an institution has an external evaluation division that is not connected to the project, it would be possible for the evaluation group to be located in the same institution as the PI and project. It is preferable to truly separate these two functions to ensure independence of the evaluator. Budgets for evaluation are normally at least 15% of the overall project budget and must include funds for the evaluator to travel to the annual CPATH Evaluators' Meeting.

    Q: What type of expertise does the evaluator need?
    A: Evaluators should have significant expertise in evaluation design. Often evaluation is best conducted by a team that has both evaluation and computing expertise. All Class II projects must participate in a higher level of evaluation Congressionally mandated by the America Competes Act. These projects must include components with quasi-experimental design as part of their overall evaluation plan. The quasi-experimental design components are coordinated with the CPATH programmatic evaluation team. Thus Class II evaluators need to have experience with various evaluation designs and the resources to implement a multi-faceted evaluation. Often this may include resources such as graduate student support and at least one month of summer salary for the evaluator.

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  7. Planning grants
    Q: Is it possible to submit a planning grant?
    A: Yes, grants for conceptual development and planning are possible. These should be submitted as Class I proposals and the cover page and title should make it clear that it is a planning project. Planning grants are typically for a period of no more than 2 years.

    Q: What level of budget can I request for a planning grant?
    A: The budget should reflect the size and scope of the planning activity and the number of participating departments and institutions. A planning grant for a single institution with only a small number of participating departments will normally not be funded for more than $150,000 total. Planning grants involving only one institution typically are budgeted at a level of $200,000 of less. Planning grants with multiple institutions or partners must still fall within the limits for Class I projects and clearly justify the request for amounts in excess of $200,000.

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  8. Multi-institutional projects
    Q: We are submitting a project that fundamentally involves multiple institutions. Is there a best mechanism for a coordinated submission?
    A: Multi-institutional projects are often best submitted as Collaborative Research proposals. In collaborative submissions, the proposals are linked and share a common title that starts with Collaborative Research. Each site submits a proposal with a PI identified at that institution. The Project Summary and Project Description are also shared and common to all the proposals. Each site will have its own budget and vitae for the participants at the site.

    Q: Where can I find information about submitting a collaborative proposal?
    A: Section II. D. 3 of the Grant Proposal Guide ( has information about submission procedures for collaborative proposals.

    Q: What is the budget limit for Collaborative projects?
    A: Collaborative projects must fit within the budget constraints of the CPATH Classes. That is the total budget of the project (sum of all the individual institutional budgets) cannot exceed $300,000 for Class I projects and $800,000 for Class II projects.

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  9. Funding history and future of CPATH program
    Q: Where can I find a list of projects funded by CPATH in the past?
    A: The link ( has information about the 2007 CPATH portfolio. The link ( has information on the 2008 CPATH portfolio.

    Q: Will there be more CPATH competitions in the future?
    A: It is anticipated that CPATH will continue for at least 5 years. However, funding for CPATH, as with all NSF programs, depends on budgetary allocations and other factors that are not known at this time. The date for the 2010 competition is set in the new solicitation.

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  10. PI limitations
    Q: How many CPATH proposals may I participate in?
    A: An individual can participate in at most one proposal in each annual CPATH competition.

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  11. Demonstration of institutional or community support for CPATH projects
    Q: What type of institutional support is required for CPATH institutionally focused projects?
    A: Cost-sharing is not required in NSF or CPATH proposals. CPATH institutionally focused projects will involve major changes at the departmental and possibly institutional level. Evidence should be provided that there is clear administrative and faculty support for the envisioned project and its goals. This includes support for the individuals involved, for any major infrastructure or organizational changes, and for leadership to facilitate the PIs with their CPATH project. Letters of support that document the institutional commitment are essential for CPATH institutionally focused proposals.

    Q: What type of support is expected from community and industry partners in CPATH institutionally focused projects?
    A: Many CPATH projects will include community and industry partners. Letters of support that document the role of the community and industry partners as well as the overall commitment to the project are essential. Community building projects must demonstrate that the activity is one that is valued by a community and not just the vision of a single investigator.

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  12. Projects with computer science education research focus
    Q: I would like to propose a project researching educational practices in computing. Does this fit under CPATH?
    A: While quality research on computing education is important, it is not the primary focus of CPATH. PIs interested in projects with a focus on research on learning or education might look at the Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) Program (

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  13. Community college involvement
    Q: I am a faculty member at a community college. Are community colleges eligible to submit proposals to CPATH?
    A: Yes. Depending on the transformational nature of your proposed project, you may submit singly or in partnership with other Community Colleges, with four-year institutions, or other combinations that will strengthen the transformational nature of your project.

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  14. Resource and Tool Development
    Q: Does CPATH fund projects whose primary focus is development of a tool or resource that will benefit undergraduate education?
    A: No, CPATH does not normally provide large amounts of fund for tool development. Generally CPATH projects involve a more mature tool or resource that span undergraduate computing education rather than impact a single course. Any resource or tool development normally would be part of a larger vision of community building with significant implementation within the community. CPATH funds normally would be used to support the community aspects of the project.

    Q: What is a source of funds to develop a prototype tool or resource and test it?
    A: Some possibilities are: Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement Program ( and National STEM Education Distributed Learning (

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  15. Other NSF programs of interest
    Q: If my project is not appropriate for CPATH, where else might I look within NSF for funding?
    A: The following is a partial listing of NSF programs that address issues related to computing education:

    Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC)

    Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI)

    Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST)

    NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12)

    Engineering Education Programs (EEP)

    Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

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  16. NSF program officers involved in CPATH
    Q: I am leading a team that is developing a CPATH proposal. We read through the FAQ site but still have some other questions that we would like to ask. Who should we ask?
    A: Contact any of the 4 NSF program officers listed on the CPATH Team. They include:

    Harriet Taylor (
    Sylvia Spengler (
    Joan Peckham(
    Dmitry Maslov (

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  17. Computational Thinking Resources
    Q: Where can I find more information about Computational Thinking (CT)?
    A: The following are sources of information and activities related to CT:

    Look for talks and publications by CISE AD Jeannette Wing. In particular check her Viewpoint paper from Communications of the ACM ( and the slides from a recent presentation

    The CSTB (Computer Science and Telecommunications Board) of the National Academy of Sciences is holding Computational Thinking for Everyone: A Workshop Series in 2009. Monitor their website for developments and reports:

    Previously awarded CPATH projects:

    The Carnegie Mellon University Center for Computational Thinking site has materials and resources.

    Computer Science Unplugged ( site has a wealth of classroom ready activities.

    Rebooting Computing Summit in January 2009. Several working groups emerged from this meeting. Some of the groups were concerned with computing education, and in defining and better communicating computing to others.

    The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has a web repository with K-12 computer science teaching and learning materials

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Last revision 2/9/2009