computational thinking, carnegie mellon
Sponsored by
microsoft research

The major activity of the Center for Computational Thinking is the PROBE, short for PROBlem-oriented Exploration. A PROBE develops and applies novel computing concepts in ways that vividly illustrate the value of computational thinking while advancing basic research in computer science. Some PROBEs involve applying new research concepts to nontraditional problems, to show how computational thinking can improve our world. Other PROBEs explore new educational concepts, to teach computational thinking. Often a PROBE involves a collaboration between a computer science researcher and a domain expert.

PROBEs typically run for one year and provide funding for faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and travel. Usually they involve a collaborator or point of contact from Microsoft Research. To maximize the pay-off, PROBEs seek broadly-applicable solutions to domain problems rather than specialized solutions or commercializable technologies.

Click on the links below to learn more about the current PROBEs in the Center for Computational Thinking.

What would happen if surgeons and medical clinics used computational thinking in order to make organ transplantation decisions?  Is it possible to optimize the allocation of organs so that many more people can be saved?  In this PROBE, Tuomas Sandholm, in collaboration with Microsoft Research, will make it possible for the United Network for Organ Sharing to use advanced computing concepts to make the best use of donor organs, potentially savings many thousands of lives each year.  Along the way, new advances in fundamental algorithms will be developed.
A key challenge in the treatment of viral and bacterial pathogens is the emergence of drug-resistant mutations. What if we applied computational thinking to this problem? Could advanced algorithms help in the design of new drugs that not only are effective against specific disease agents, but also against any variants that are likely to arise due to drug-induced evolution? In this PROBE, Chris Langmead will explore the use of machine learning techniques to predict likely mutations and thus allow better drugs to be designed.
Computational Thinking for Improved Control Over Privacy

Empowering Lay Users to Control Complex Privacy and Communication Policies
Organized by Norman Sadeh, Lorrie Cranor, and Jason Hong

Privacy Optimizations
organized by Anupam Gupta

Improving Privacy via History Independence
organized by Guy Blelloch and Daniel Golovin

With the abundance of information available to us nowadays, the question of data privacy has become increasingly important.  This means that everyone needs to understand privacy in more contexts than ever before.  Computational thinking will be essential for coping with these new realities.

In 2007, the Center for Computational Thinking organized a Mindswap on Data Privacy, bringing together researchers from Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon, as well as other academic and industry researchers.  The researchers highlighted the idea of privacy as a computational resource, to be optimized by algorithms and data structures, and managed by computational thinking.  The outcome of the MindSwap is a set of three PROBEs:
Parallel programming will soon become predominant and sequential programming a special case. Are we ready for this change? We will require a fundamental rethinking of programming methodology that permeates early thinking about algorithm design all the way to the construction and maintenance of software systems. This PROBE brings together the world's leading thinkers to develop new approaches, curriculum, and understanding.
More than half of American households have a practicing musician, and while musicians today have unprecedented access to computing technology, notably lacking is technology that can perform live music. What would happen if computational thinking were to be incorporated into live performances? This PROBE is exploring the development of the Performer, a new computational model for live music performance.
Computational Thinking and Robotics

Computational Thinking for a Robotics Education Project
organized by Manuela Veloso

Understanding and Harnessing Ensemble Behavior
Organized by Seth Copen Goldstein

Robotics has the powerful ability to capture the imaginations of students young and old. As such, it is a great vehicle for introducing computational thinking to students. In these PROBEs, the Center for Computational Thinking is developing new projects and capabilities on top of Microsoft's Robotics Studio platform, to enable imaginative research and education.

Computational thinking has a profound impact on how we communicate. We are increasingly called upon to think procedurally when we wish to access, transform, and share our most intimate thoughts. This PROBE will organize a conference which gathers together, for the first time, the innovative educator/engineers who have pioneered these new educational environments for interactive media and communications.