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Computers are only as smart as the people controlling them.

How do computers work? What are the major components of a computer? What goes on inside the metal box when I start moving the mouse or typing on the keyboard? How can we improve a computer’s performance?

Cosmos Computing aims to help students understand and answer these questions through an immersive interactive role play. Students act as the different components of a computer, working together to work through a ‘program’ (algorithm) to produce an image on a display.

Cosmos Computing is a program suitable for upper primary aged students and is aligned with the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum, specifically the Years 5 and 6 Content Descriptions. It’s also great for team building between teachers!

Resources required:

  • teacher access to a photocopier,
  • coloured pens/pencils/markers,
  • a bound/stapled print out of the colour book for each group,
  • and, Post-it notes.

Lesson time:

  • Approximately 10 minutes introduction,
  • 40 minutes active time (this should allow each group to go through two ‘algorithms’ and rotate roles within the group),
  • and 10 minutes summary and wrap up.

Students work in groups of four, taking on a role each from: CPU (Central Processing Unit), ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit), Display, and Hard drive.

Literacy and Numeracy Requirements:

  • The student acting as the Arithmetic Logic Unit will engage in simple addition and subtraction using single digit numbers.
  • The student acting as the CPU will need to read and communicate instructions to the Arithmetic Logic Unit, Hard Drive and Display roles.
  • The student acting as a Display will need to colour in boxes on the display sheet based on the column and row number provided by the CPU (simple cartesian plotting).
  • The student acting as the Hard Drive will need to count pages in a booklet (up to 42) and recognise colours—or read the word for the colour if any students in the group are affected by colour blindness.

Following on from the initial cosmos computing sessions, we have extension activities which include building a functioning computer and working through a Minecraft Adventure to add functionality to the computer, learning electronic systems through building a game controller, and extending on the knowledge built through the role playing activity. Currently, these activities are available for schools in Western Australia as they involve the loan of equipment from ICRAR. Contact us to arrange these extension activities.


Download everything you need to run a Cosmos Computing session in your classroom here.

If you have any questions or would like some advice on implementing the program in your classroom, please contact us.

Instructions and Manual


Worksheets, print one per group per ‘program’ they’ll be completing:

You will also need a Harddrive colour book per group. See below.

‘Programs’, print one or two per group (you can have everyone work on the same program, or you can mix them up between the groups):

Beginner (FirsT) Program

Three different versions of the initial program. It can be beneficial to give adjacent groups different versions so they work through the activity themselves in their group rather than looking at other’s work. Each group will need one copy of the ALU sheet (Page 1), and will use only the first column so the subsequent columns can be used for advanced sheets (below).

Advanced Programs

Use these programs for subsequent runs through the activity (or for fast finishers of the initial program).

Harddrive Colour Books

We no longer have copies of these books, but you can print your own. Download the pdf, and print it in ‘booklet’ form using acrobat reader and a COLOUR printer. You can then fold and bind it using a spiral or comb binder. Make sure the pages come out in the right order once you’ve bound it, as that is vital for the activity to work, compare to the page order in the digital document.