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Fighting for What We Believe In. Together.

The CS+X Foundation began as a local K-12 spin-off of the University of Illinois CS+X initiative. Based on the early success of CS+X inside the College of Engineering, the CS+X Foundation soon became recognized as an empowered collection of community leaders independent from UIUC. The Foundation is now engaging with more and more people, adding more and more supporters, and amplifying more and more voices.

The CS+X Foundation leads local campaigns that promote real solutions to the grand challenges faced by society. We challenge the notion that the way things are is the way things should always be, and we are proud to be a force for positive transformation.

The Foundation is committed to the recruitment and retention of under-represented populations into STEM careers by increasing participation in today’s engineering and humanitarian grand challenges. The CS+X Foundation is a registered 501(c) 3 working to expand the impact of the "computer science plus any field" paradigm into communities at-large. By retooling the institutional relationships between education, urban research, workforce development, and entrepreneurship, the CS+X Foundation is working to achieve change that has yet to be successfully implemented at scale.

In support of early and life-long literacy, the CS+X Foundation accomplishes its mission by:

  1. Establishing a dynamic CS+X Center in downtown Champaign as a consortium of direct service providers, anchored by citizen scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and entertainers joining with universities, school districts, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and corporations working to advance fundamental and applied research; curate and disseminate knowledge; test and deploy new technologies across a variety of cultural, political and entertainment contexts for responsible social change; develop policy recommendations in response to our changing environment; advance philanthropic efforts; and ensure that human/humane factors drive efforts at sustained and equitable growth for healthy, livable urban environments.                                                                                                

  2. Creating and promoting innovative educational materials and events that allow for year-round, progressive, hands-on exposure to leading-edge topics. The scope of this work serves to encourage meaningful connections between professional and community educators, interactive museums, and university institutions.  These activities enhance discovery and research in formal and informal settings, create tangible connections to mentors and career advancement, help identify novel teaching concepts, and train educators to replicate successful examples of innovative curricula, experiments and demonstrations.                                                          

  3. Broadening impact within civic and community organizations that service populations underrepresented in technical careers (e.g., women, African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics, and persons with disabilities) by assisting in the design, execution, and promotion of educational materials and events. These partnerships will assist in centralizing, systemizing, and broadening STEM participation of critical underrepresented groups for career development and advancement.                                                                                                   

  4. Curating and disseminating novel educational materials and guidelines for interactive events. Many excellent progressive curricula and events fail to gain wider adoption because they lack attention to curating key content and managing outcomes.  CS+X partners with K-12 teachers, museums, community activists, and academic administrators to create mechanisms and guidelines for how to sustain, measure, and enhance learning outcomes of culturally sensitive STEM curricula from year-to-year.                                                                                                                             

  5. Partnering with community creatives, visual/performing artists, and journalists, to better connect technical innovation to a broader community, thereby enlisting art to help recast grand challenges as more interesting and visible for early adoption. These partnerships may foster the creation of new outlets for entertainment, assist journalists with reporting on technical topics, enhance and develop new art forms that communicate innovation to wider audiences, and assist in the creation of online content that better engage non-scientists and the public at large.


Rich learning ecosystems require learners and learning agents to develop new core skills, including visual literacy, collaboration, networking, and flexibility. For learners with less access to support in navigating it, the opportunity is mixed. With resources no longer exclusively tied to geographic place, learners have the potential to be less restricted by their immediate surroundings than they were fifteen years ago. This opens up new learning opportunities for many. But community intention and perseverance is still required to help ensure that everyone has access to the full range of learning experiences, economic opportunity, and access to funding for innovation.

Given the broad scope of "vibrant grid" activities suggested during Talking Techquity 2019, 2020, and 2021, the overwhelming community recommendation is to establish a permanent community venue in a prominent and accessible location. One that can undertake year-round development including flexible partnerships, pathways, and programs like:

  1. Dedicated Art and Design Studios That Offer Knowledge-Rich Curricula to host for-credit academic courses that count toward the completion of an academic degree or workforce certificate programs in art and design. Examples include research activities, internships/co-ops, capstone projects in support of traveling exhibits, or large cohort-based experiences that facilitate the interaction between university and local participants.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

  2. Community Learning Laboratories that stimulate interest in a variety of curricular, co- curricular, and extra-curricular activities that require access to computer and physical laboratory settings.  Including centralized development, support, and evaluation of year-round progressive programing for STEM workforce development, up-skilling for underemployed workers and re-entry candidates who have been touched by the penal system.                                                                                                                                                                                   

  3. Storefront Studio for Engaged-Research to systematize and streamline the creation and evaluation of sustained, equitable, and accountable researcher-practitioner partnerships for new initiatives in urban research and engineering grand challenges. A Storefront Studio will help maintain a network of community experts and a convenient meeting space to assist in the collection of local opinions, history, and data.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

  4. Teacher Training Institute for the New "Learning-Economy" to teach educators, volunteers, and service-learning students to deliver grand challenge and learning lab curricula for all ages. Provide professional development to help pre- and in-service teachers incorporate grand challenges and restorative justice into their classrooms and into informal education outlets for use in after-school programs, camps, and special events.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

  5. Digital Network for Engagement including a software tool suite and digital infrastructure to make holistic community engagement available nationwide. Construct a distributed community hub for vetted information on grand challenge discoveries, curricula, training, feedback, evaluations, questions, and research.                                                                                                                                                                      

  6. Innovation District to explore the possibility of investing in a place-based urban development strategy that aims to regenerate under-performing downtown neighborhoods like the North Neil Street Corridor, into desirable locations for innovative and creative companies and workers.

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Recommendations for Our Community Learning Grid


Knowledge-Rich Curricula

Learners act as prosumers (proactive consumers who co-produce what they consume) who shape their learning experiences by drawing upon a rich learning geography to identify resources that meet their needs. Flexible innovation now marks the economy and culture and has permeated learning. This is an era of smart government, in which government helps stimulate new ideas and innovation but quickly gets out of the way. An entrepreneurial culture dominates. As learners and their families have increasingly claimed their rights as learners, government has let go of the idea that all children must learn the same standards in favor of personalized learning outcomes. We believe that once our provisional model is fully operational, it will highlight the unique and valuable opportunities that differentiate our community.

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Personalized Learning

Neurological advances have contributed much to the personalization of learning experiences. Now that more is known about the impacts of specific physical and virtual environments on cognition and brain health, learners no longer accept average learning styles and levels of performance as the benchmark. Instead, learning fitness instructors abound, offering customized, cognitive assessments and neuro-enhancement regimens for learners of all types.



Engaged-Teaching, Engaged-Learning, Engaged-Research

Amid all the possibilities for personalizing learning experiences, yesterday's formal K-12 school system no longer dominates the world of post-covid learning. Those schools and districts that remain have re-defined their focus and have become one part of a complex and vibrant set of options that together form a loose learning ecosystem. Additional institutions, such as museums, libraries, art centers, community gardens and markets, fabrication hubs, scientific labs, and hospitals, offer community-based learning experiences, as do some workplaces. Together, re-invented “schools” and other institutions and community organizations form a lightweight, modular network of learning options providing fertile ground for researchers and practitioners alike.

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The New "Learning-Economy"

Just as with learning providers, educators have re-imagined their roles and value in the learning ecosystem. Gone are the days when their primary roles were teacher, administrator, and tutor. Now there is a whole host of learning agents. Some focus directly on learners’ experiences. For example, learning journey mentors facilitate learning inquiries in particular disciplinary areas, and learning fitness instructors work with learners to get their brains and bodies fit for learning. Assessment designers specialize in developing creative methods of assessing and communicating what learners achieve in various settings. Some learning agents focus more on the community or system levels of learning. For example, community intelligence cartographers develop data visualizations of learning ecosystems that become critical for tracking systemic resource needs and bottlenecks. In turn, educators help develop and manage collaborative innovation in learning.



A burgeoning field of assessment designers has provided new methods for assessing and credentialing informal, immersive, and non-classroom based learning, easing mobility across many types of learning experiences. Many kinds of learning agents are now a part of the “learning economy,” making learning a fast-growing field. With learning no longer measured by seat time and with flexible assessments reflecting customized goals over prescribed standards, learning is available 24/7 and year-round across many learning platforms and beyond geographic boundaries. Some place-based brick-and-mortar schools still exist and maintain an important civic purpose as centers of the community that help manage and maintain access to a quality learning commons. Those that establish themselves as portals to the broader learning grid and tied to local community needs are the most likely to attract learners.


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With so many options for supporting learning, a diverse system of professional branding and validation has emerged as the best means for ensuring learning agent quality. People looking ahead fifteen years ago probably would have found today's system quite chaotic and might have feared that it would contribute to society's fraying. But so many resources are a part of the grid connecting learners with learning agents and learning experiences that a new civic narrative has emerged: learning is a shared community asset, and everyone can play a role in creating, preserving, and protecting these critical resources. In fact, new forms of crowd-sourced funding and collaborative resource development have become important forms of support for learning ecosystems.


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