Administrative toolbar

CoMSES Challenge 2012

August 25, 2011

CoMSES Net is offering the second annual CoMSES Challenge. This year the goal is to develop an agent-based model that can be used to teach concepts of sustainability at the high school level. The author(s) of the winning entry will receive a cash prize of 1000 Euro.

Entries to this year’s CoMSES Challenge will be reviewed by a panel of distinguished scholars:

  • Ilan Chabay, Erna & Victor Hasselblad Professor of Public Learning and Understanding of Science, Chalmers University of Technology
  • Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz, The Modeling Institute, Arizona State University
  • Sander van der Leeuw, Dean of the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University

The guidelines for the ComSES Challenge are outlined below. If you have any questions regarding this challenge, you can contact Nathan Rollins ( or Marco Janssen (


Simulation models can be effective tools to teach complex systems. One of the most important issues that confront us today is how to transform society to create a more sustainable future. With this Challenge we aim to stimulate the development of agent-based models that can be used in education, especially the high school level. The submitted models will become a resource for educators and we will work with the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University to disseminate those models.

How to participate?

The primary goal of this challenge is to create an agent-based model that can engage students and help them to learn about a topic directly related to social and ecological sustainability. Topics could include the diffusion of invasive species due to climate change, social aspects of resource management, material flows within urban settings, or any other topic that involves dynamic interactions that can be represented by agent-based models. A model that conveys ongoing scientific work (including advanced modeling) to high school classes in the form of an ABM is acceptable.

To ensure that the model submitted to the challenge can be used in education, we will especially look at the way the model is implemented and the accompanying explanatory material. The science behind the model should be well documented, and both the model and accompanying material must be useable by a high school teacher within existing courses. Hence, submitted models should be easy to use, robust, well documented and include material for teachers that suggests exercises to enhance the educational experience.

Who can submit?

This challenge is open to all, students, researchers and professors, individual or as a group, except those affiliated with the units of Arizona State University of the competition organizers (School of Sustainability, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, The Modeling Institute).

What to submit?

Submissions include the following material:

  • The agent-based model. You are free to use whatever model development platform or language package you wish. However, take into account the user friendliness and ease of installation under Windows or OS X on low-end computers. The model should be well documented, provide clean and well-organized code with appropriate comments in English.
  • A tutorial on how to use the model.
  • Associated teaching material. For example, this could be Powerpoint slides and examples for a module in a class on sustainability.
  • The material should be submitted to To be eligible for the prize the models need to be archived in the CoMSES Computational Model Library at Submission to the library can be done after the submission deadline, but must occur before the prize will be awarded.


The models will be evaluated on their ease of use, originality, and their ability to engage students in critical thinking about sustainability. Besides the evaluation by the panel of scholars, a short list of the best models will also be evaluated by a class of high school students in Phoenix.

The deadline for submissions is April 2, 2012.