3D Science &

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.


Students at K-12 levels are expected to perform scientific and engineering practices to make sense of natural processes and systems (NRC, 2012). This website provides a number of agent-based computer models to support the 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.

Related Information:

  • What is an agent-based computer model (ABM)?
  • How do agent-based computer models support student learning?


We provide a range of ABM models in ecology, evolution, and genetics developed using NetLogo , a multi-agent programmable modeling environment designed by Uri Wilensky (1999) at Northwestern University. To run these models, you need to first install the NetLogo software pack (see tutorial video below). NetLogo is a freeware and work on Windows, Mac, and Linux. See YouTube Video below for how to install NetLogo and run a model on PC, Mac and run the model in NetLogo Web.


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

Check out the latest Video Tutorial: