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.
All office, phone and schedule information will be maintained in my
http://www.gustavus.edu/~wolfe. 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
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.
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
- You must have submitted an initial attempt by the original due
date. If you are too sick to complete a homework assignment by the initial
deadline, you will not be penalized. Simply write "late due to
illness" at the top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in.
- Any program you submit should be tested by you before submission,
with any bugs reported. If I catch a bug which you ought to have
spotted, you won't be allowed to redo that homework problem.
- No revision will be accepted after the start of class on
the class day before the exam covering the material. This
deadline is intentionally synchronized with the test reviews; the
point of the homeworks is to prepare you for the tests.
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 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
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
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
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
- 36% projects (6 graded projects)
- 39% exams
- 25% homework (about 25 homework problems)
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.
grade disputes should be made before the final exam.
We will fix obvious grading errors promptly (and will thank you for
pointing them out).
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.