3-dimensional Science Learning & Agent-based Modeling

"By grade 12, students should be able to use (provided) computer simulations or simulations developed with simple simulation tools as a tool for understanding and investigating aspects of a system, particularly those not readily visible to the naked eye."

-National Research Council. 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13165.

What's new?

Welcome to 3D Science & Agent-based Modeling

Students at K-12 levels are expected to perform science and engineering practices and use disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems (NRC, 2012). This website provides a number of agent-based computer models to support such three-dimensional science learning processes. Developed by Dr. Lin Xiang in the Department of STEM Education at the University of Kentucky, these models allow students to investigate a range of biological processes and phenomena highlighted in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). For example, the "Carrying Capacity" model specifically addresses the NGSS performance expectation "HS-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics". Using these models may create a learning environment that engages students in making observations, asking questions, collecting and analyzing data, conducting mathematical and computational thinking, identifying patterns and causality, and constructing explanations. When desired, teachers may even engage students in computational modeling using relevant programming languages. For example, students may develop and use agent-based computer models to understand epidemics and explore how to mitigate them.

Related Information:

  • What is an agent-based computer model (ABM)?

  • How do agent-based computer models support student learning?

Find models by topics

Find Models by NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas


We provide a range of ABM models developed using NetLogo , a multi-agent programmable modeling environment designed by Uri Wilensky (1999) at Northwestern University. To run these models, you may either install the NetLogo software pack on your computer or use a browser-based platform, NetLogo Web. NetLogo is freeware and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. See YouTube Video below for how to install NetLogo and run a model on a PC, Mac, and run a model in NetLogo Web.


  • If you use Tablets, Chromebooks, or iPads, choose "Run in NetLogo Web" to run an online version (see tutorial below).

  • You are asked to provide citations when using these simulations in any published work.


We have developed and field tested some ABM-enhanced Lesson units, see examples: Bark beetle epidemic and Big pumpkins. These computer models are free for school teachers and students. These units cannot become exist without the intensive contributions from our classroom teachers. We sincerely invite more science educators to join us to develop or test more ABM units.

Please contact us at:

Dr. Lin Xiang, Department of STEM Education, University of Kentucky

Email: lin.xiang@uky.edu