May 20, 2021 Update

Life has been busy for the Form and Function design team made of faculty and research assistants from Athabasca University. We have worked since summer 2020 to imagine, create, design, and finalize our transdisciplinary project that marries sustainable architectural design to computational thinking. The various stages of project development required imagination and teamwork to pull together a unique curricular support for high school teachers in Alberta and beyond, but the final achievement has been worth the wait. This blog post highlights the processes taken and the final open assets created.

Once we received confirmation from Callysto to proceed, faculty from Athabasca University’s Education programs collaborated with professors from the Faculty of Science and Technology. Using collaborative tools, virtual meetings and email chains, the main design team gathered insights and suggestions to flesh out what eventually would become an eight-minute animation, numerous scaffolded coding activities, and comprehensive teaching design plans.

The jewel of the project is the animation that covers aspects of evolutionary biology, math modeling, and genetic algorithms applied to designing a community of buildings balancing costs, energy needs, and aesthetics. More than once, design members commented on the complex ideas within the animation, yet by the very magic of Pulp Studios( Kelly Mellings and Corey Landsdell) the visual storyline supported the nesting of ideas.

Figure 1: Screenshot from Form and Function(s): Sustainable Design Meets Computational Thinking by Blomgren et al is licensed by CC BY 4.0.
Figure 1: Screenshot from Form and Function(s): Sustainable Design Meets Computational Thinking by Blomgren et al is licensed by CC BY 4.0.

As we moved from script to storyboard to rough animations, our weekly meetings ensured that accuracy balanced with comprehensibility – no easy task. The animation process ran alongside the development of teaching plans that stayed true to the “all pathways” possibility or a disciplinary focus or even more granular teaching applications. We enlisted the feedback of in-service high school teachers to provide us feedback and suggestions helping us make things “real”.

Our two research assistants assisted us in moving forward. Brad Skeet, with his pedagogical background applied his knowledge of lesson and activity design to help guide faculty in their content contributions. Liliana Tang spent numerous hours working inside Callysto’sJupyter notebooks making sure that the background coding would support the entry-level activities working with math models and genetic algorithms. Computing faculty recognized the importance of not overwhelming high school students and aimed to take advantage of Jupyter’s  live code, equations, and visualizations, alongside clearly stated narrative text.

To view the animation, visit this Youtube  linkand to use, adapt, or revise the lesson plans check out OER Commons. Both the animation and the supporting materials have a CC BYCreative Commons license to encourage the ongoing improving, adapting, and remixing of these Open Educational Resources for teachers and learners.

The animation and supporting educational materials won the 2021 Canadian Network for Innovation in EducationAward of Merit for the Excellence and Innovation in the Integration of Technology in a Partnership or Collaborative Educational Opportunity category.


The Athabasca University faculty* contributing to this project included:

Dr. Constance Blomgren is an Associate Professor with the Education programs in Open, Digital and Distance Education. She researches K-12 educators’ understanding and use of Open Educational Resources. She is the producer of the video and podcasts of the ABOER Multiply K-12 OERmedia project. Connie was the educational lead for Form and Function(s).

Trevor Butler is an Assistant Profession in the RAIC Centre for Architecture. As a professional engineer Trevor offers a wealth of knowledge on the technical considerations of architecture and energy management. Trevor was the architecture lead on Form and Function(s). 

Dr. James Greenwood-Lee is an Assistant Professor and the former Chair of the Centre for Science. His interests lie in the mathematical modelling of evolutionary dynamics and its applications. James was the math lead on Form and Function(s).

Dr. Stella George is Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University. She has a long term relationship with the application of AI both inside and outside education. Her current research focus is on the impact and education of AI with the general public. Stella was the computing lead on Form and Function(s).


Dr. Angela Beltaosis an Academic Coordinator in Applied Mathematics at Athabasca University. Her principle research is in the area of nanotechnology in collaboration with the NRC Nanotechnology Research Centre. Her interest and involvement include curriculum development in higher education and Science outreach activities in K-12. 

Dr. Douglas MacLeod is the Chair of the RAIC Centre for Architecture, and the Interim Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at Athabasca University. MacLeod is a registered architect, a contributing editor to Canadian Architect Magazine and the former Executive Director of the Canadian Design Research Network.

Dr. Farook Al-Shamali is an Academic Coordinator of physics courses at Athabasca University and has teaching experience in both face-to-face and online settings. He has published in the areas of particle physics, geomagnetism, and physics education. He is active in developing dynamic and interactive diagrams and in using mobile devices in physics home-lab experiments.

Dr. Henry Tsang is an Assistant Professor in the Centre for Architecture at Athabasca University. As a registered architect with expertise in green building design; he brings a professional’s perspective to the porject and introduces concepts of design thinking and process to integrate the principles of form and function in a building.

Dr. Maiga Chang is a Full Professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University. He has adopted and developed many bio-inspired algorithms for solving real-world problems like sightseeing place recommendation for tourists, required sitter’s prediction for the hospitals, and missing annotation identification and suggestions for students.

Dr. Roland Treu is an Associate Professor at Athabasca University in the Centre for Science and Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta. He covers evolutionary and ecological processes in his undergraduate teaching and is interested in the applications of systems theory.

Dr. Sabine Graf is a Full Professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University. She has extensive research and teaching experience in artificial intelligence and computational intelligence, including teaching about evolutionary algorithms as well as conducting research on using such algorithms to solve real-world problems.

Veronica Madonna – Assistant Professor, RAIC Centre for Architecture. Veronica Madonna is a registered Architect in Ontario with expertise in post-secondary design and a focus on advancements of mass timber and sustainable strategies in buildings. Veronica is a former Principal Architect at Moriyama & Teshima Architects.

Dr. Vivekanandan Kumar has over three decades of experience in Artificial Intelligence in Education, a field that envisions a world where ‘learning machines’ teach, play, study, guide and mentor students — motivating their interests, challenging them and improving the way they live, learn and plan careers.


Research Assistants

Brad Skeet has been an educator for over twenty-six years and is the Vice-Principal at Meadow

Ridge School, a K-9 school, in Okotoks, Alberta. Working with students primarily from grades4 through 9, Brad has a keen interest in the blended classroom where technology and teaching meet.  He is pursuing his Master in Education degree through Athabasca University.

Liliana Tang has been working as a software developer and a data scientist for five years. She has a keen interest in making computer science accessible for everyone, especially youth. She holds a Master degree in Information Technology Management from Athabasca University in addition to a Bachelor degree in Computing Science from MacEwan University. 



David Hay has taught Grade 6, high school science, math, and technology courses, and has been a school division consultant in the areas of technology and innovation. In 2019-2020 he held a year leave from Elk Island Public Schools, working for Cybera on the Callysto project.

Dr. Byron Chu

Byron graduated from the University of Calgary with a PhD in Biochemistry. His studies focused on intrinsic properties of proteins, and today he applies the same scientific principles to data and network-enabled projects. As a burgeoning data scientist, Byron is interested in the intersection of data analysis and storytelling, and how numbers can inform on every level of society: from networks and the environment, to the health issues we could potentially face.


Teacher OER Sprint

Karen Larter Karen Larter is a teacher with the Foothills School Division.  She has a Master’s of Education Degree from the University of Lethbridge in and a passion for environmental-outdoor education and integrating curriculum outcomes outside the traditional academic course boxes.

*These biographies appear on the Athabasca University and Callysto websites.