CS21: Intro to Computer Science

Schedule | Grading | Study Sessions | Style | Integrity | Links


Welcome to CS21. This course will introduce fundamental ideas in computer science while also teaching you how to write computer programs. We will study algorithms for solving problems and implement solutions in the Python programming language. Python is an interpreted language that is known for its ease of use. We also introduce object-oriented programming and data structures. A deeper coverage of these topics will be presented in CS 35.

This course is appropriate for all students who want to learn how to write computer programs and to think like computer scientists. It is the usual first course for computer science majors and minors. Students with advanced placement credit or extensive programming experience should place out of this course and instead begin with CS 33 or CS 35.

Goals for the course

Class information

Room: Science Center 240
Time: Tuesday, Thursday 9:55am–11:10am
Text: Python Programming: an Introduction to Computer Science by John Zelle

Instructional staff

Professor: Richard Wicentowski
Office: Science Center 251
Phone: (610) 690-5643
Office hours: Wednesday 9:30am-11:30am or by appointment

Student Support: Betsy Horner
Office: Science Center 255
Phone: (610) 957-6062

Student Mentors: Jake Baskin, Maria Kelly, Rachel Lee, and Ashley Oudenne


1 Jan 22   Introduction
Zelle Chapters 1-2
Lab #1: Warmup programs
Jan 24  
2 Jan 29   Computing with numbers and strings
Zelle Chapters 3-4
Lab #2: Numbers and strings
Jan 31 Quiz 1
Practice Quiz
Drop/Add ends (Feb 01)
3 Feb 05   Graphics
Zelle Chapter 5
Lab #3: Graphics
Feb 07  
4 Feb 12   Functions
Zelle Chapter 6
Lab #4: Busy Bugs!
Feb 14 Quiz 2
Practice Quiz
5 Feb 19   Decision structures
Zelle Chapter 7
Lab #5: Jumping stick figures
Feb 21  
6 Feb 26   Loops
Zelle Chapter 8
Lab #6: Lingo
Feb 28 Quiz 3
Practice Quiz
7 Mar 04   Top-down design
Zelle Chapter 9
Mar 06  

Mar 11

Spring Break

Mar 13

8 Mar 18   Searching and Analysis of algorithms
Zelle Section 13.1
Lab #7: Spelling correction
Mar 20 Quiz 4
Practice Quiz
9 Mar 25   Sorting and Recursion
Zelle Sections 13-2-13.3
Lab #8: Recursion
Mar 27 Last day to declare CR/NC or withdraw with a W (Mar 28)
10 Apr 01   Dictionaries
Zelle Section 11.6
Lab #9: Zipcodes
Apr 03 Quiz 5
Practice Quiz
11 Apr 08   Defining new classes
Zelle Chapter 10
Lab #10: Turtles and Fractals
Apr 10  
12 Apr 15   Object-oriented design
Zelle Chapter 12
Lab #11: Fire Simulator
Apr 17 Quiz 6
Practice Quiz
13 Apr 22   Linked lists Lab #12: Genetic Algorithms
Apr 24  
14 Apr 29   Binary search trees None
May 01 Practice Quiz 7

May 10

Final exam: Saturday May 10 from 2pm to 5pm in Science Center 101


Your overall grade in the course will be determined as follows:
35%Lab assignments
5%Class Participation
25%Final Exam

Policy on Programming Assignments

Programming assignments will typically be made available on Wednesday and will be due before midnight the following Tuesday night. You are strongly encouraged to start early and to attend the study sessions for extra practice.

You will submit your assignments electronically using the handin21 program. You may submit your assignment multiple times, but each submission overwrites the previous one and only the final submission will be graded. Late assignments will not be accepted unless you contact me before the deadline. Even if you do not fully complete an assignment, you may submit what you have done to receive partial credit.

Study sessions

Several student mentors will assist me in class and run study sessions in the robot lab (Science Center 252) on Wednesday and Sunday evenings 7-9pm.

You are invited -- and encouraged -- to participate in these study sessions to prepare for quizzes, to discuss programming concepts, and to get friendly assistance in working on assignments. Our CS mentoring team is dedicated to helping students, who have no prior knowledge of computer science, learn to program in Python while keeping their senses of humor intact. As an added bonus, free food will be provided at the sessions.

Programming Style

Programming is not a dry mechanical process, but a form of art. Well written code has an aesthetic appeal while poorly written programs can make other programmers and instructors cringe. Programming assignments will be graded based on style and correctness. Good programming practices usually include many of the following principles:

Academic Integrity

Academic honesty is required in all work you submit to be graded. With the exception of your partner on assignments, you may not submit work done with (or by) someone else, or examine or use work done by others to complete your own work.

You may discuss assignment specifications and requirements with others in the class to be sure you understand the problem. In addition, you are allowed to work with others to help learn the course material. However, with the exception of your lab partner, you may not work with others on your assignments in any capacity.

All code you submit must be your own with the following permissible exceptions: code distributed by me as part of the class, code found in the course text book, and code worked on with your assignment partner. You should always include detailed comments that indicates which parts of the assignment you received help on, and what your sources were.

Please see me if there are any questions about what is permissible.

Basic Unix Commands
Python Documentation
Textbook site
How To Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python