Syllabus and general information for MCS-178: Introduction to Computer Science II (Spring 2004)


In MCS-178 we continue exploring the perspectives and methods of computer science, particularly abstraction. We'll first consider the notion of computations with changing state by looking "under the hood" at computers. We'll extend this notion of state into other areas, such as the use of state to construct more efficient computational processes than otherwise, and the use of object-based and object-oriented programming to model systems of objects with changing state. Along the way, we'll also confront language issues, by investigating how one might write and modify a Scheme system in Scheme (a so-called meta-circular evaluator) and by introducing a second programming language, Java. At the end of the semester we'll take a brief look at Java's use in writing event-driven and concurrent programs (those that behave in response to user actions and those that do more than one thing at a time).

The prerequisite for the course is MCS-177.

Reaching us

All office, phone and schedule information will be maintained in my web page, If my office door is open you are welcome; if I'm busy, we'll set up an appointment. Email and phone calls work, too.

All course handouts, as well as some supplementary materials, will be available through my web page. A link to for this course is in my homepage

San Skulrattanakulchai will be the primary lab instructor.

Text and readings

The primary text for the course will be Concrete Abstractions: An Introduction to Computer Science by Max Hailperin, Barbara Kaiser, and Karl Knight. We will cover chapters 10-15.

There's also an on-line Java Tutorial at, and copies of several Java books in the MCS Lab monitors' room, any of which you are welcome to use as a supplement to the material on Java in our book.

Mastery homework

The syllabus shows due dates for six homework assignments; each will typically consist of four or five problems. You must turn in all the problems in an assignment by that assignment's due date, but may turn in individual problems earlier if you wish. I will mark each problem as "mastered" or "not yet mastered," and return them to you as rapidly as I can. For those not yet mastered, I may write some brief indication of what area needs work, but you should really take these as an invitation to come talk. You may turn in a revised version of each problem however many times it takes to reach the "mastered" point, even after the original due date. The only restrictions are these:

Note that if you turn in each homework problem as soon as you can do it, rather than saving them for the assignment due dates, you will have more opportunity for revision and resubmission before the cutoff dates listed above. Particularly for the last homeworks before each cutoff date (and test), I can't guarantee you'll have time for a revision cycle otherwise.

I may also announce an earlier cutoff date for any individual problem I consider important for us to discuss in class.

The homework portion of your course grade will simply be determined by the fraction of the homework problems you eventually mastered.

Attendance policy

Attendance is mandatory for all lab sessions, unless you have already turned in your project report. I will excuse up to two absences per student, for any reason. Use yours wisely. If you exceed this allowance, I may reduce your course grade by up to one letter grade.

Regarding class days, the policy is that you will be responsible for all material, whether or not you are in attendance when it is covered or distributed.


Students are encouraged to discuss the course, including issues raised by the assignments. However, the solutions to assignments should be individual original work unless otherwise specified. If an assignment makes you realize you don't understand the material, ask a fellow student a question designed to improve your understanding, not one designed to get the assignment done. To do otherwise is to cheat yourself out of understanding, as well as to be intolerably dishonorable.

Any substantive contribution to your solution by another person or taken from a publication should be properly acknowledged in writing. Failure to do so is plagiarism and will necessitate disciplinary action.

The same standards regarding plagiarism apply to team projects as to the work of individuals, except that the author is now the entire team rather than an individual. Anything taken from a source outside the team should be be properly cited.

One additional issue that arises from the team authorship of project reports is that all team members must stand behind all reports bearing their names. All team members have quality assurance responsibility for the entire project. If there is irreconcilable disagreement within the team it is necessary to indicate as much in the reports; this can be in the form of a "minority opinion" or "dissenting opinion" section where appropriate.

Late lab assignments

All lab assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. You are permitted to submit one lab assignment up to 72 hours late without penalty. (This very liberal policy is intended to accommodate illness or serious conflict. Please do not ask for additional exceptions unless your situation is unusual.)


We will provide you with a letter or a numeric grade on each homework, project and test. 90% or more of the points, you will earn an A, 85% for an A-, 80% for a B+ and down by 5 percentage points each to the lowest passing grade of 45% for a D. There is no curve.

However, we reserve the right to subjectively adjust your final grade. Please see your instructor if you have any question how you stand. Exams will be closed-book and closed-notes. You may, however, use a single 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper with hand-written notes for reference.

Any grade disputes should be made before the final exam. We will fix obvious grading errors promptly (and will thank you for pointing them out).

Style guidelines

All homework and project reports should be readily readable, and should not presuppose that we already know what you are trying to say. Use full English sentences where appropriate (namely almost everywhere) and clear graphs, tables, programs, etc. Remember that your goal is to communicate clearly, and that the appearance of these technical items plays a role in this communication process. Be sure your assignments are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.

Each project assignment will include specific expectations for that project's report, including the audience for which it should be written. You should pay careful attention to this information.


Please contact me immediately if you have a learning or physical disability requiring accommodation.