Owen Astrachan

Digital Library

ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award

USA - 2016


For three decades of innovative computer science pedagogy and inspirational community leadership in broadening the appeal of high school and introductory-level college computer science courses.

Owen Astrachan's contributions to computer science (CS) education have been substantial. For more than three decades, he has influenced how and to whom we teach computer science. His participation in the Advanced Placement (AP) CS program dates back to the mid-1980's when he joined the AP Computer Science Development Committee. Since that time, he has been involved in most of the advances and new developments as the AP program evolved, including overseeing the transition from Pascal to C++. Most recently he has led the effort to develop a new AP course and exam, accessible to a broader audience of high school and college-level students, Computer Science Principles.

For three decades, Owen has helped make difficult concepts in object-oriented programming and software engineering accessible via his textbook, workshops, and conference presentations. Owen is renowned for his leadership in the definition and direction of introductory computer science courses for both computing majors and non-majors at both the college and secondary levels, his impact on authoring curriculum  materials and a widely used introductory computer science textbook, his excellent teaching, and his leadership and service for over thirty years with the College Board Advanced  Placement Computer Science program.

Owen's personal attributes make him a natural candidate for this award. He is steadfast in his core beliefs about democratizing computer science education. He is a risk-taker and this attribute has been instrumental in exploring new ways to improve on opportunities for more students to learn computer science. He has taught at both the high school and college levels for nearly four decades, and has inspired generations of computer science students with his innovative and engaging teaching methods. He has influenced the direction of computer science education and led numerous initiatives that have advanced the discipline. He has devised new approaches to teaching, developed curricular resources that have been widely adopted, published on a variety of topics, and personally mentored thousands of students and educators. His approach to teaching and writing led to the coining of the term "Astrachan's Law" which states "never ask a student to use a computer to solve a problem that is more easily solved without it."

Press Release

ACM Distinguished Member

USA - 2013