Wilensky Wins 2016 Excellence in Design Award

Award honors Wilensky's work to create NetLogo

Northwestern University learning scientist and computer scientist Uri Wilensky has received the prestigious 2016 Excellence in Educational Design Award for the design and development of NetLogo, a computer-based modeling system that allows users to construct simulations of natural and social phenomena and evaluate ‘what if’ case scenarios.

Given annually by The International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE), the award highlights decades of work by Wilensky, who created NetLogo in 1999. The modeling system has been in continuous development ever since at his lab, the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling.

Uri Wilensky“My goal has always been to design a learning environment that enables students of all ages to engage with important ideas through interactive exploration and play, as well as to empower researchers to more easily build models” said Wilensky, professor of learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy and professor of electrical engineering and computer science in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.

NetLogo helps people explore or build simulations and "play" with them, exploring their behavior under various conditions. The system comes with a large and diverse model library, including predator-prey populations, distribution of wealth in a society, gas molecules in a box and more.

The broad appeal of NetLogo stems from its versatility and accessibility; it’s simple enough for students and teachers and yet powerful enough for researchers in many fields. NetLogo is used by thousands of secondary and university classrooms and scientific research publications. In addition, the software is free and open-source. It can be downloaded from

Wilensky will deliver a keynote address in September at the 2017 ISDDE conference, where he will formally receive the award.

“Through a sustained and deliberate process, Wilensky has created a substantial product that others use to develop and share innovative prototypes,” said ISDDE chair Susan McKenney. “This recognition and impacts is the overarching criterion for the ISDDE Award.”