Asee peer logo

Quantum Computing at the Intersection of Engineering, Technology, Science, and Societal Need: Design of NGSS-aligned Quantum Drug Discovery Lessons for Middle School Students

Download Paper |


Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference



Publication Date

April 9, 2021

Start Date

April 9, 2021

End Date

April 10, 2021

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Amy Voss Farris Pennsylvania State University

visit author page

Amy Voss Farris is currently an Assistant Professor of Science Education at the Pennsylvania State University. She investigates the intersections of scientific modeling and computing in elementary and middle school classrooms and seeks to understand how learners’ and teachers' experiences in scientific computing can support their development of ideas and practices across STEM disciplines. Her teaching encompasses engineering education, preservice teacher preparation, and computational literacies in the Learning Sciences. She is an active member in the International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) and has published numerous journal articles and conference papers on children's scientific and computational modeling in school settings. Her recent work argues that understanding computational thinking requires accounting for the perspectival, material, and embodied experiences in which children’s computing work is grounded.

visit author page


Anna Eunji Kim Pennsylvania State University

visit author page

Anna Eunji Kim is a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology program at Penn State. Her research focuses on examining student's reading comprehension on digital texts and the interdisciplinary study of developing educational curricular within the context of quantum computing and drug discovery.

visit author page

author page

Junde Li


Swaroop Ghosh Pennsylvania State University

visit author page

Swaroop Ghosh received the B.E. (Hons.) from IIT, Roorkee, India, the M.S. degree from the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, and the Ph.D. degree from Purdue University, West Lafayette. He is an assistant Professor at Penn State University. Earlier, he was with the faculty of University of South Florida. Prior to that, he was a Senior Research and Development Engineer in Advanced Design, Intel Corp. At Intel, his research was focused on low power and robust embedded memory design in scaled technologies. His research interests include low-power circuits, hardware security, quantum computing and digital testing for nanometer technologies.

Dr. Ghosh served as Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions On Computer-Aided Design (2019-) and IEEE Transactions On Circuits and Systems I (2014-2015) and as Senior Editorial Board member of IEEE Journal of Emerging Topics on Circuits and Systems (JETCAS) (2016-2018). He served as Guest Editor of the IEEE JETCAS (2015-2016) and IEEE Transactions On VLSI Systems (2018-2019). He has also served in the technical program committees of ACM/IEEE conferences such as, DAC, ICCAD, CICC, DATE, ISLPED, GLSVLSI, Nanoarch and ISQED. He served as Program Chair of ISQED (2019) and DAC Ph.D. Forum (2016) and track (co)-Chair of CICC (2017-2019), ISLPED (2017-2018) and ISQED (2016-2017).

Dr. Ghosh is a recipient of Intel Technology and Manufacturing Group Excellence Award in 2009, Intel Divisional Award in 2011, Intel Departmental Awards in 2011 and 2012, USF Outstanding Research Achievement Award in 2015, College of Engineering Outstanding Research Achievement Award in 2015, DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) in 2015, ACM SIGDA Outstanding New Faculty Award in 2016, YFA Director’s Fellowship in 2017, Monkowsky Career Development Award in 2018, Lutron Spira Teaching Excellence Award in 2018 and Dean's Certificate of Excellence in 2019. He is a Senior member of the IEEE and the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), and, Associate member of Sigma Xi. He serves as a Distinguished Speaker of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for a 3 year term (2019-2022).

visit author page

Download Paper |


The emerging field of Quantum Computing (QC) is novel for most K12 educators. Fundamental understandings of QC rely on advanced mathematics and physics. Therefore, why is a middle or high school introduction to QC relevant or needed? In our local area, the Pennsylvania (PA) Department of Education specifies that PA science teachers implement learning experiences that allow students to understand the nexus of how societal needs create a demand for new technologies that in turn advance scientific knowledge and impact society [1], that science teachers create opportunities for students to engage in computational thinking and mathematics within authentic science and engineering contexts [2], and that mathematics pedagogy supports students to model with mathematics and make sense of complex problems [3]. To fulfill these existing learning aims, we present a collaborative curriculum development project based on our interdisciplinary research in which we develop quantum computing methods and tools for therapeutic drug discovery. The team includes faculty from medicine, quantum computing, machine learning, and science education. The curriculum development work aims to develop resources for middle and high school (U.S. grades 6 – 12) teachers to facilitate an introduction to Quantum Information Science (QIS) and QC, embedded in existing learning aims including mathematical, scientific, and engineering practices and concepts in statistics and probability, the natural sciences, and computing. We therefore demonstrate a proof-of-concept paper for how an introduction to QC designed for teachers and students in middle and high school can be responsive to disciplinary science and math learning goals (e.g., interpreting a distribution of quantum states and decoding it into viable molecular structures) and situated in contexts of emerging quantum technologies. The educational resources provide a developmentally-appropriate approximation [4] of the drug discovery goals of the project and utilize existing cloud-based quantum infrastructure from IBM (IBM Quantum Experience), making the QIS concepts accessible and useful in the middle and high school contexts in relation to these existing discipline-based learning goals. The associated professional development (PD) will foster a pathway for teachers to engage with scientists and engineers around unfinished problems, supporting an epistemological stance toward science that aligns with interdisciplinary negotiations and model-based reasoning characteristic of ongoing scientific research. This, at its most basic level, supports teachers and students to engage with technological innovation as a form of scientific literacy. The teacher toolkit will support practitioners to visualize qubit states and facilitate learning activities that address how QC is an ongoing engineering endeavor, driven by societal needs for new technologies, and enabling QIS applications that young learners can authentically engage in.

[1] Pennsylvania Technology and Engineering Standards (2020). [2] National Research Council. (2015). Guide to implementing the next generation science standards. National Academies Press. [3] National Governors Association. (2010). Common core state standards. Washington, DC. [4] Grossman, P., Compton, C., Igra, D., Ronfeldt, M., Shahan, E., & Williamson, P. (2009). Teaching practice: A cross-professional perspective. Teachers College Record, 111(9), 2055-2100.

Farris, A. V., & Kim, A. E., & Li, J., & Ghosh, S. (2021, April), Quantum Computing at the Intersection of Engineering, Technology, Science, and Societal Need: Design of NGSS-aligned Quantum Drug Discovery Lessons for Middle School Students Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . 10.18260/1-2--36315

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015