"Computers are dull and boring; humans are clever and imaginative. We humans make computers exciting. Equipped with computing devices, we use our cleverness to tackle problems we would not dare take on before the age of computing and build systems with functionality limited only by our imaginations." -- Jeannette Wing

Course Description

or... Should I Take This Course?

This course is an introduction to the field of Computer Science. It will cover the breadth and impact of computer science on society; and what it means to be a computer scientist. A large portion of the class will be devoted to introducing the major concepts of computer science, and the background needed to be successful as a computer science student such as tools, terminology, and introductory PROGRAMMING SKILLS. You will have to think, problem solve, and practice skills in this class.

Everyone is welcome to take this course, whether you are going on in computer science or not. However, this course has a specific audience in mind. This course is NOT FOR PEOPLE who have had nontrivial programming experience in a language such as C, C++, Python, Java, JavaScript, PHP, Lisp, etc. You probably should not be in this course if you are currently taking calculus or higher level math. In these cases you should probably be enrolled in CS120. Furthermore, this course has a lot to do with procedural and symbolic abstraction. If you have trouble with algebra you might want to allow extra time for homework or consider waiting until you have a stronger grasp of algebra. If you would like a comfortable, relaxed, and fun beginning course in computer programming this is probably it. If want to understand a bit better about the future of the world you live in this is it.

One way to introduce Computer Science is by learning to program. All of the assignments will be programming assignments in a variety of computer languages of varying complexity, hopefully in an entertaining way. This course is for people who have little to no programming experience. It should give you confidence in the deep technical side of computers. But this course is not trivial, you have to think.

This course is not about how to use applications like Word on a computer! It is how to begin to bend a computer to our will by designing and writing programs.

NOTE: if you have already taken CS120 you will NOT get credit for it on your transcript.

Time: MWF 9:30-10:30
Final: None
Location: CNR 10
Textbook: None (see the resources section throughout the semester)

Estimated Syllabus

This syllabus is an estimate of what we might cover this semester. The class varies from semester to semester to reflect new and interesting topics and the rate at which the class is absorbing material.


of that

Topics/Links Assignments Comments
wk 1 Jan 8 Context. Software is everywhere. The information age. What is computer science? Computer science is about organizing process and data. Any limits to computing?

Information and Representation: Files and data. Number systems and encoding things in bits.

Hardware and Software. Operating Systems duties.

wk 2 Jan 15 More about hardware and other glossary terms. Glossary of Computer Science Terms to Know for exam 1   NO CLASS MONDAY
wk 3 Jan 22 Intro to Programming in Scratch, the Scratch interface, simple programming. x-y coordinate system. Sprites and motion. Program flow, loops, decisions. More simple programming, threads of execution, introducing pong Assignment 1  
wk 4 Jan 29 The Pong game and multiple threads of execution, inter thread communication, interaction of sprites and background. What does it mean to be random? Randomness in our programs. Estimating pi and making random choices. Assignment 2  
wk 5 Feb 5 I'm Thinking of a Number the guessing game (threads, messages, variables, scope (local and global)), Submarine hunter game (sounds, sensing, images, and more messages) Assignment 3  
wk 6 Feb 12 NetLogo and the dance program to understand turtles location and movement. Discrete vs continuous coordinate systems. The blocks program to understand patches. The virus simulator. Assignment 4  
wk 7 Feb 19 More virus simulation and the rabbits and grass simulation, plotting graphs and histograms, wolves and sheep, mathematical models and computer models, more on working with patches, the game of life, the philosophy of computing EXAM ON WEDNESDAY NO CLASS MONDAY
wk 8 Feb 26 more game of life and control structures Assignment 5  
wk 9 Mar 5 Simple graphics with the Processing language, coordinates and shapes, the syntax of languages, the idea of type, the execution model, frame rate, mouse position    
xx Mar 12     SPRING BREAK!
wk 10 Mar 19 Color models, conditional statements, loops, nesting of loops, functions, data vs function abstraction, new shapes Colorful dots program. Global and local variables.    
wk 11 Mar 26 More bouncing ball program. sine/cosine/radians and degrees. Translating between polar (pirate) and Cartesian coordinates. Assignment 6  
wk 12 Apr 2 Polygons, functions and procedures, argument lists and argument passing. Procedure calls. Assignment 7  
wk 13 Apr 9 The Clock program! More procedures, abstraction, local variables, loop syntax. Polar coordinates.    
wk 14 Apr 16 Intro to 1D arrays, physics engines, bouncing ball program. What so useful about subscripting a variable? The sieve of Eratosthenes and 1D arrays. Assignment 8  
wk 15 Apr 23 2D arrays, image processing, nested loops, PImage, Making simple image filters. Making some exotic image filters. More with color and transparency, saving images.    
wk 16 Apr 30 Angles and direction. Text and the meter program.    
wk 17 May 7     FINALS WEEK;

References and Resources

General References




CS in the News


  • For each assignment follow the instructions for that assignment for where to turn in the work. Wait for each assignment to be assigned before starting work on any assignment. Assignments will be announced in the class news and posted in the assignment schedule when the assignments are made.
  • For assignment 1 only use this homework submission page to submit your "public name". Note: it will ask you to log in. Be sure you get the success message after hitting the submit button. If your file is not the right type of file it will return an error. Within ten minutes it should mail you at your university email address with a simple confirmation message.

Policies and Processes