Celebrating 30 years of mission-driven innovation

2024 marks our 30th anniversary.

Our origins reach back to a simple beginning, on a single-board computer with a mere one kilobyte of memory. But it’s not about the computer itself—it’s never just the technology. It’s what the computer made possible that matters.

When Bob Tinker connected a KIM-1 computer to an expansion board he’d designed (doubling its memory from one precious kilobyte to two!) and added support for analog input and output, he was able to demonstrate how placing a tiny thermal sensor inside a test tube could provide immediate measurements of heating and cooling during phase changes.

What Bob realized earlier than anyone else was that manual and time-consuming data collection could be automated, freeing up valuable time for students to explore their own ideas. With this groundbreaking interface, he had invented a pathway to making experimental data collection quick, easy, and accessible to all.

Robert Tinker (1970s photo)

The Concord Consortium’s founder Bob Tinker in the 1970s.

With this initial move, Bob set a revolution in motion—in educational probeware and in educational technology more broadly—that showcased technology’s power to add new dimensions to learning and bring the joy of science exploration to learners everywhere.

In 1994, with grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Bob founded the Concord Consortium as a nonprofit educational technology lab. One of these very first grants painted a vision of project-based approaches to learning physics using inexpensive materials for hands-on investigations, such as his futuristic sensor-based prototype.

Bob was the Principal Investigator on over 25 NSF grants, including many that would forever change the field of STEM education. Under Bob’s 15-year tenure, the Concord Consortium and its staff created the Virtual High School, developed multi-level modeling for supporting genetics learning, created the award-winning Molecular Workbench, developed Energy3D engineering software, created the web-based data exploration software CODAP, developed interactive Earth systems models and simulations, scaffolded students in independent inquiry, and collaborated with thousands of incredible teachers along the way.

Bob retired in 2009 and handed the reins to Chad Dorsey, who became our second president and CEO. Under Chad’s leadership, we are proud to carry on this pioneering work with our mission to innovate and inspire equitable, large-scale improvements in STEM teaching and learning through technology.

Today’s projects cover a wide range of STEM and interdisciplinary topics across grade levels and geographic regions nationwide. We continue to make our technology, curriculum resources, and source code available to all for free through open-source and open-access licensing. Our websites have been accessed by over 3 million users from all 50 states and nearly 200 countries around the world.

We’re designing and researching informal, game-based data science learning experiences for middle school-aged girls and gender-expansive youth that promote learning and interest in data science. Developed together with the University of Miami and FableVision Games, “The Isles of Ilkmaar” engages middle school learners in a multiplayer, data-rich virtual world and studies how gameplay increases their ability to work with data and the ways they see themselves fitting into data-rich futures.

We’re developing and studying a curriculum allowing middle school students to explore earthquake hazards, risks, and preparedness in the context of their own communities. In partnership with teachers, geoscientists, educational researchers, technology and curriculum developers, a professional development specialist, and a workforce and diversity specialist, the YouthQuake project is engaging Hispanic and African American students in authentic science practices traditionally done by geoscientists.

We’re integrating language-based artificial intelligence across the curriculum—in math, English language arts, and history classes—to create diverse pathways to AI-rich careers. Through collaboration with the San Joaquin County Office of Education in California, the Maryland Center for Computing Education, and school districts in California and Maryland, we’re helping student populations underrepresented in the field of AI understand its potential and envision new futures.

We’re bringing rich data experiences into interdisciplinary project-based learning. In middle schools in New York City and Columbus, Ohio, we’re working with teachers to co-design data-infused addenda for open-resource EL Education modules. Engaging students with topics ranging from plastic pollution to epidemics, food choices, and the Japanese American internment, we’re helping better understand how interdisciplinary learning can give students agency with data and build their data identities.

We’re designing culturally relevant curriculum with embedded technology tools for Native American and Alaska Native children. Engaging community partners, teachers, and students in adapting Concord Consortium STEM units, we’re embedding local phenomena and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) features into units for Yup’ik students in grades 3-8 in Alaska’s Hooper Bay.

And we’re fostering virtual learning of data science foundations with mathematical logic for rural high school students. Through co-creation of a curriculum for high school students in the Florida Virtual Schools, we’re reaching rural students who typically have far less access to advanced STEM courses taught by highly qualified teachers.

Across dozens of research and development projects and two office locations in Concord, Massachusetts, and El Cerrito, California (and remote employees in eight additional states), our logo guides our work. In all we do, we aim to shine a light on our vision of a world where all students and teachers use effective digital resources to engage deeply, justly, and equitably with STEM concepts and practices in varied personal, cultural, and social contexts.

In this, we delight in the central star of our light bulb logo, which represents that initial spark of an idea—including that ineffable “a-ha” moment of Bob’s visionary experiment that would change the course of educational history—and encompasses the hope we share that all learners can experience the transformative joy of discovery.

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we wish you a bright and innovative new year!

4 thoughts on “Celebrating 30 years of mission-driven innovation

  1. Congratulations on 30 years of remarkable achievement. Best wishes for continued success in the next 30 years! Thank you for your dedication in moving STEM education forward. Be well.

  2. Thanks to all the people committed via the Concord Consortium to the improved methods of educating both students and teachers in various content areas. My adaptations greatly increased my effectiveness during 50 years of teaching science.

  3. Congratulations on these 30 years of history so rich and prolific in tools, resources and ideas. In Spanish, the translation of “concord” is “concordia”, for which, if one looks it up in the dictionary, synonyms appear such as “harmony, union, agreement, consensus, camaraderie, cordiality, friendship, brotherhood, fraternity”. Without a doubt, all these feelings have been present during these 30 years in the Concord Consortium to have achieved the achievements that you/we celebrate today. Let me toast on this anniversary to these and many more achievements to come. With much affection,

    Cristián

  4. Congratulations on 30 years and increasing student access to scientific data quickly and efficiently. It was a pleasure being part of some of the teams developing CC resources. I hope to continue to make STEAM concepts for student exploration.

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