Instructor: Dr. Phill Conrad, Lecturer (PSOE), Dept. of Computer Science
(Joint Appointment, College of Creative Studies).
TA: Hakan Yildiz
Course Meetings: Session: B (August 3rd-Sept 11)
Mon, Tue, Wed: 1100am-1225pm, Phelps Hall 1401 
Discussion sections:
ESB 1003 (Cooper Lab), Thursdays
Enrollment code: 18119: 11am-12:25pm
Enrollment code: 18127: 12:30pm-1:55pm
Instructor Email instructor email, obscured to prevent spam
TA Email: TA email, obscured to reduce spam

Course Office Hours are shown in the table below
(This table may be updated later in the quarter, check syllabus link on the website for the latest updates).

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
Who Phill
by appt only Phill Conrad by appt only Hakan Yildiz
Where HFH 1113   HFH 1113   CSIL (Harold Frank Hall)
When 1:30-3pm   1:30-3pm   10am-noon

Prof. Conrad is also available by appointment—email him to request an appointment. Include CS8 in your subject line, and indicate your available times.

What this course is about

This course is an introduction to Computer Science, and programming. Computer Science is the study of algorithms. An algorithm is a well-defined, step-by-step sequence of instructions that can be used to mechanically determine the solution to some well-defined problem.

You probably use algorithms every day—for example:

In the case of using an index, this is probably an algorithm you may have learned in grade school, and it has been so long since you learned it, that now you don't even think about it—you just do it. Finding a space in a parking lot—and knowing when to give up and look elsewhere—is "just common sense"; this probably isn't something you were ever "taught", or even have to think very much about. You just do it.

Computers don't currently have this capability—i.e. the capability to "pick up things by common sense"—and it seems unlikely that they will within our lifetime—unless there are major breakthroughs in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Such breakthroughs have been predicted for a while, but they haven't happened yet. (Maybe you'll be the one to figure out how to acheive this!)

So, for the time being at least, it falls to humans to design algorithms that computers can use to solve problems. In many cases, these algorithms are "just common sense"—the computer equivalent of looking for an empty parking space in a parking lot (and knowing when to give up). Algorithms like this are easy to design. Many of the algorithms we'll see in this course are like that.

In other cases, the algorithms are very complex, or very subtle, and coming up with them is a deep intellectual challenge. Furthermore, the impact of a better algorithm on society can be very large. For example, new algorithms in the field of computational science—modelling chemical and biological reactions with computer simulations—can lead to breakthroughs such as new drugs to fight disease, or renewable sources of energy.

Human languages such as English and Spanish are not very well suited for expressing algorithms—at least not for expressing them to a computer (that have their problems for communicating with humans too!). So, special languages are used. In this course, we'll learn the Python programming language. We choose Python rather than Java or C++ because:

This course provides you with the opportunity to become a pretty good beginning programmer, and be well prepared for an intermediate programming course such as CS16 (the first course that counts towards the CS major at UCSB, and which requires at least one quarter of prior programming experience.)

I say that the course "provides an opportunity", because you will only become an good beginning-level programmer if you put a lot of time and effort into this course—that is true no matter how much thought and attention I put in my lectures, assignments, and exams.

The swimming/guitar/painting analogy

You cannot learn to swim, play guitar, or paint from a textbook or a lecture. You can only

The same is true of programming. Programming is not a serious of facts to be memorized—you cannot "cram" for a computer science exam. You must practice, practice, practice.

You may find the workload heavy

As a result, the workload in this course may feel heavy. It may even feel unreasonable compared to your other courses.

However, I assure you that it is not unreasonable, given the goal of making you an skilled beginning programmer.
Programming is a skill, and the only way to get good at it is lots and lots of practice, which takes lots and lots of time.

Special note for summer session programming courses

The compressed 6 week term means your work load—reading assignments, homework, and programming assignments—which is already heavy in this class, will have to 166% of what you'd experience during the normal quarter, just to keep up.   

The usual rule of thumb is 8-12 hours per week for a normal college class*. That means you should expect, at a minimum to put in 14-20 hours per week on this summer course, on top of the 6 hours you spend in lecture and lab each week.

Finally—note that just as in a math class, everything we do builds on all the work that came before. So, everything is cumulative—so, you can't afford to miss any classes unless absolutely necessary.

(*see How much outside class study time is recommended for every hour of class time for college freshmen? 26 May 2009 <,articleId-7601.html>)

What you need to learn to become a skilled beginning level programmer.

So, what is it that you need to know to be an skilled beginning-level programmer in Python? Here's the list of what you'll need to be ready for CS16 (the next programming course):

  • Problem solving
    • breaking down a problem into a sequence of steps
    • abstracting specific problems into general ones
      and finding general solutions
  • Memory concepts
    • variables, primitive vs. reference variables, name, type, value
    • assignment statements
    • scope of variables
  • Control structures
    • for loops, if/else, while loops
  • Lists in Python (similar to arrays in other languages)
    • index vs. value, finding sum, min, max, average, count of elements matching some condition, making a new list of elements containing only those that match some condition
  • Functions
    • function call vs. function definition
    • formal vs. actual parameters (arguments)
  • Testing
    • How to test your code
  • Input/output concepts
    • Writing to the terminal
    • Reading from the keyboard
    • Reading and writing to files
    • Neatly formatting output
  • Program style
    • How to write code that other people can read and understand


Catalog Description

Introduction to computer program development for students with little to no programming experience. Basic programming concepts, variables and expressions, data and control structures, algorithms, debugging, program design, and documentation.


None: but we do expect familiarity with basic concepts from high school algebra, geometry and trigonometry—we'll review those as needed.


Main textbook: Python Programming in Context

Authors: Bradley N. Miller, and David L. Ranum
Publisher: Jones and Bartlett, 2009.        
ISBN-10: 0-7637-4602-5    ISBN-13: 978-0-7637-4602-5

For more information, See:


50% Assignments/Quizzes/Homework + 30% Midterm Exams (2 at 15% each) + 20% Final Examination

Quizzes may occur at anytime, announced or unannounced. Missed quizzes may not be made up.
Thus attendance is required, and reading the assigned readings is required.

A conventional 10 point scale will be used to map your numeric average into a letter grade, with the lower three and upper three points of each range representing plus/minus.

grade >= 93 A       73<= grade < 77 C
90 <= grade < 93 A-   70<= grade < 73 C-
87 <= grade < 90 B+   67 <= grade < 70 D+
83<= grade < 87 B   63<= grade < 67 D
80<= grade < 83 B-   60<= grade < 63 D-
77 <= grade < 80 C+   grade < 60 F

This 10 point scale represents the minimum letter grade you will be assigned—at the instructor's discretion, the letter grade scale may be altered in the students' favor if this will be better reflect the students' mastery of the material. Thus, if there is a "curve", it will be applied at the end, not to individual assignments.



This course moves quickly. So attendance is very important.

We'll be trying to master the material from about 9 chapters in the book over six weeks. We'll sometimes cover two or even three chapters in a given week. We need to go at that pace, last few lectures the quarter, you can't really start anything new, because there isn't time to put it into practice with programming assignments. If you don't put it into practice, you aren't very likely to learn it in any way that is going to stick with you, so there isn't much point in just "going through the motions".

As a result, there will be something you have to turn in at almost every class. In this way, attendance is taken, and required.

These things you have to turn in will be a combination of in-class activities, and homework completed outside of class, but handed in on paper during class.

Missing in-class activites.

If you miss a class, you miss the opportunity for the points on that in-class assignment, or homework that was due. Period.

There is no makeup, except for

To make up an assignment from a "sick-day/personal-day", you must email me within 48 hours of the absence, to make an appointment to make up the assignment during the next scheduled office hours following your absence (or at an appointment time to be negotiated, if you have a conflict with those hours.) This make up must happen within one week of the absence, or 24 hours before the final exam, which ever is earlier.

In rare cases, if there is a documented family emergency, documented extended illness, documented required court appearance, or other situation beyond the students' control (with documentation) the instructor may grant additional make up days entirely at the instructor's discretion—but this is not a guarantee or a right.

A special note about collaboration

As mentioned above, one of the things we really want to convey in this course is that real-world software development is very seldom an 'individual sport'—is it much more often a 'team sport'. Companies want to hire CS and CE graduates that know how to collaborate with others on producing software.

In the CS Department at UCSB, we understand the value of this. However, it puts us in a tricky position.

On the one hand, we want to encourage working together in ways that help you develop your skills and teamwork, and help you understand that programming can be a social, collaborative, creative activity—not something done only by loner nerds in cubicles. The sooner you start with activities such as pair programming, code reviews, and other collaborative software development activities, the more skill you'll develop, and the sooner you'll be ready for the real world. Plus, for many people, working together with others is a lot more enjoyable and fun than being a loner.

On the other hand, we need to avoid any situations where freeloaders are "coasting" through courses by leaning too much on others—never developing independent skills as programmers. This situation creates huge problems. Mostly it is damaging to the freeloaders themselves, who eventually crash and burn, perhaps far too late to choose another career path without significant difficulty. However, it also creates problems for everyone else—some hardworking students become demoralized by the unfairness of it all, and the value of a UCSB education is diminished by the freeloaders' lack of accomplishment.

Thus, we must strike a balance.

Our emphasis on collaboration means:

It doesn't not mean, however:

The bottom line:

A final note: the emphasis on collaboration in this course does not necessarily extend to other CS courses you make take in the future.

UCSB Policy on Academic Honesty

It is expected that students attending the University of California understand and subscribe to the ideal of academic integrity, and are willing to bear individual responsibility for their work. Any work (written or otherwise) submitted to fulfill an academic requirement must represent a student’s original work. Any act of academic dishonesty, such as cheating or plagiarism, will subject a person to University disciplinary action. Using or attempting to use materials, information, study aids, or commercial “research” services not authorized by the instructor of the course constitutes cheating. Representing the words, ideas, or concepts of another person without appropriate attribution is plagiarism. Whenever another person’s written work is utilized, whether it be a single phrase or longer, quotation marks must be used and sources cited. Paraphrasing another’s work, i.e., borrowing the ideas or concepts and putting them into one’s “own” words, must also be acknowledged. Although a person’s state of mind and intention will be considered in determining the University response to an act of academic dishonesty, this in no way lessens the responsibility of the student.

(Section A.2 from:, Student Conduct, General Standards of Conduct)


This syllabus is as accurate as possible, but is subject to change at the instructor's discretion, within the bounds of UC policy.