The Standing Ovation Problem for NetLogo

Greg Marfleet
Political Science, Carleton College
Author Profile


The assignment asks students to construct an agent-based model of a standing ovation. It provides some basic code that allows them to initialize a population of seated event attendees and asks them to consider how a standing ovation might propagate through the crowd.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This assignment is used in a senior political science seminar course on computational modeling.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have a concept of computational agents that each possess a set of variables and conditions (the most important of which is sitting or standing) but might also include initial excitement levels, vision, number of friends standing in proximity etc.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the third workshop assignment for the course, the first two assignments introduce students to the Netlogo coding interface and have them work with some basic code examples provided by the software team. This is the first assignment that asks them to create or modify code on their own.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The main goal is to introduce student to the concept of how positive feedback in social systems can result in non-linear or tipping point dynamics. The assignment asks students to plot the curve of the number of audience members standing at time (t) and invariably it forms a classic S curve.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

In addition to the basic model, students are encouraged to explore alternative agent orientations or sensitivities and to compare how these different models behave. Advanced students can also explore negative feedback systems and investigate how dampening dynamics might inhibit tipping point behaviors.

Other skills goals for this activity

The assignment requires further development in basic programing skills such as the use of if-then conditionals, loops and variable updating over time.

Description of the activity/assignment

Please see the uploaded assignment.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I typically open and run each students model and read the commented code. The first question is does it work.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

New TTE Logo Small

Complex Systems resources from across Teach the Earth »

Key Resources:

Join the Community:

or Search