CSCI 101 - Intro to Computer Science

Spring 2020 - Syllabus

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Course Description:
This course is an introduction to the building blocks of Computer Science. Students will engage in activities that show how computing changes the world and impacts daily lives. Topics include conventional algorithm design and efficiency, computer hardware, operating systems, computer networking, cybersecurity and privacy, artificial intelligence, and programming languages. Various optional topics in computer science are discussed as well, depending on the semester. A popular procedural programming language (Python) will also be used by students with assignments that explore the topics discussed in class.

There are no prerequisites for this course. If you are new to programming, then you must enroll in the LAB course associated with this class (CSCI 102). In other words, students in CSCI 101 who are not in CSCI 102 should start the semester with significant prior experience programming in some language.

If interested in more details on what we'll cover in this course, see the list of  Course Topics 

Main Required Book (purchase electronically):
Our main textbook this semester is an electronic book called CSCI 101: Introduction to Computer Science, which was created specifically for this course. Our zyBook contains material from four zyBook titles:
  • Computing Technology for All
  • Introduction to Computer Systems and Assembly Programming
  • Troubleshooting Basics
  • Programming in Python 3
To purchase our zyBook,
  1. Go to zyBooks ( and create an account with your email address.
  2. Enter zyBook code: MINESCSCI101CampSpring2020
  3. Subscribe ($77)
  4. Note: Python chapters (Chapters 14-24) are available as a reference for CSCI 101 students. These chapters are required material for CSCI 102 students.

Optional Book (if you also want a hard copy of a book):
The following textbook covers most of the material in the zyBook and more. We will cover some material from this textbook in class. Three copies of this book are on reserve in the Arthur Lakes Memorial Library.
  • G. Michael Schneider and Judith Gersting, Invitation to Computer Science, 7th edition, Cengage Learning, ISBN-13: 978-1305075771

Clicker Required (purchase in bookstore):
You will also need to purchase an i-clicker from the bookstore (if you don't have one already, e.g., Physics requires one). We will use clickers for all CSCI 101 quizzes starting week 2. You should register your clicker through Canvas (see an option in Canvas on the left hand side).

Course Objectives:
The objectives of this course are to introduce students to the field of computer science. At the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain common computing acronyms and terms and how they apply to computing hardware, software, and applications.
  2. Demonstrate how elementary hardware concepts are used to construct modern computing systems
  3. Describe steps to take to increase the security of computers and information.
  4. Develop a detailed algorithm from a word problem.
  5. Create an efficient computer program to solve a problem in a high-level language (Python).
  6. Evaluate the efficiency of an algorithm and understand the computational limits of conventional computers.
  7. Summarize the data science process.
  8. Assess social and/or ethical implications of various computing technologies and human decisions as they are used in solutions addressing various problems and challenges.
  9. Use computers and computer networks toward the advancement of science, engineering, and the greater society in which they operate.

Computer Facilities and Assistance:
You need a Mines multipass account to use the lab machines available across campus, which most students create during EPICS. If you do not have this account, visit If you have trouble, contact the Computer Commons Help Desk in room 156A of CTLM. We will use the Python 3 programming language, which we suggest you install on your home machine. We will provide instructions for doing so in CSCI 102 and will assist any student installing on their laptop.

Student Evaluation:
There is a total of 1000 points in this course. Grades will be assigned on the following basis:

Quizzes Explore Project Python Projects Create Project Homework Exam One Exam Two Python Exam Final Exam zyBook Completion
60 pts
80 pts
80 pts
70 pts
100 pts
150 pts
150 pts
50 pts
200 pts
60 pts

     * some Python projects and homework assignments will be worth more than others
     ~ all Python assignments will be graded using Python 3
UPDATE MARCH 29th: Python Projects are now worth 65 pts (instead of 80) and Homework is worth 115 (instead of 100).

Quizzes: We will have several quizzes throughout the semester, with most given at the start of class (which means you don't want to be late!). The purpose of the quizzes is to ensure you are keeping up with course material, especially the assigned readings and videos. Good news: half the daily quiz points are earned just by taking the quiz!

Explore/Create Projects: You’ll work on the Explore Project the first half of the semester and the Create Project the second half of the semester (both of which are projects in the AP Computer Science Principles course). The Explore Project has you explore, present, and write about a computing innovation of your choosing. The Create Project has you create a final Python project, again of your choosing. These projects are pretty open-ended, allowing you to choose both the area of interest to focus on and the level of difficulty to take that focus.

Python Projects: These projects will be smaller in nature than the Create Project, each with a goal for you to practice some feature of the Python language.

Homework: This category is for other miscellaneous assignments that we'll do, and includes assignments related to zyBook and other assigned reading.

Exams: We’ll have two exams during the semester, as well as a Python language exam (toward end of semester) and a final (cumulative) exam.

zyBook chapters will be assigned each week. Students should complete the chapters as they are assigned. Participation AND challenge problems count toward completion.

Expectations: You are expected to attend all classes and come prepared to actively participate in the activity and discussion for the day. Your attendance is important for several reasons:
  • Coverage of material that is not in the zyBook.
  • Participation in active learning, where we all learn from each other.
To do well in this course, you must keep up with the assigned videos, zyBook activities and homework assignments, as well as engage in the in-class activities. We promise to prepare you and to provide you with the tools needed to succeed. All students are advised to be familiar with university policy regarding the make-up of work missed due to excused absences. This policy may be found in the Catalog.

Final Grades: Your final grade will be determined using a straight scale. The straight scale assigns letter grades as follows:
  • [93, 100] -- A
  • [90, 93) -- A-
  • [87, 90) -- B+
  • [83, 87) -- B
  • [80, 83) -- B-
  • [77, 80) -- C+
  • [73, 77) -- C
  • [70, 73) -- C-
  • [67, 70) -- D+
  • [63, 67) -- D
  • [60, 63) -- D-
  • [ 0, 60) -- F
The programming piece of this class is important (as other courses include 101 as a prereq due to the programming piece). Thus, to pass this course, you must pass (60% or higher) the Python Exam (given toward the end of the semester) and the Create Project. If you do not meet one of these requirements, you will receive an F for the course. If you are new to programming, then you must take the LAB associated with this class (CSCI 102).

Submission/Grading Information:
  • After a grade on some assignment is posted in Canvas, students have ONE week to review and contest the assigned grade. If you are concerned over the grading of a particular assignment, post a note in Canvas. If you cannot resolve the issue through Canvas, contact Rena Loving (ljloving).
  • Late Policy:
    • (00h 00m, 24h 00m) Late: -20%
    • [24h 00m, 48h 00m) Late: -40%
    • [48h 00m, 72h 00m) Late: -60%
    • [72h 00m, INF) Late: -100%
    Assignments submitted 4 days or more after the due date are not graded. Weekends count as two late days. All work must be turned in before Dead-Day.
  • Assignments may not be re-submitted after they have been graded.
  • All Python projects will be graded with Python 3 ( It is your responsibility to ensure your Python project submissions work in Python 3.
Course Support:
  1. CSCI 101 U-CLIMB Mentors are available to help you, via weekly office hours. You can see their availability on the CSCI 101 course web site (under Contact).
  2. Piazza will be our course communication tool. A few suggestions:
    • Be polite. This applies to assignment clarifications (e.g. writing “This requirement makes no sense” is not the best phrasing. Instead, try something like: “I’m not clear what requirement X means. Should I do [a] or [b]?”)
    • A Piazza post is not a text message; use complete sentences and correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
    • Carefully think about the best way to phrase your question so it is understandable by others.
    • Check to see if your question has already been asked/answered before posting!
    • Anonymous posts are anonymous to the students in the class, not to the instructors/mentors.
    • In regards to Piazza posts about Python projects:
      • Never, ever, post your entire code on Piazza (unless instructed to do so). Instead post a small portion of your code that you are suspicious about. Not including the bit of code is like ordering pizza by saying, "Hi, I'd like some food, please." (Uh, what food? What size pizza? What toppings? And do you want extra napkins?).
      • Be specific. An email (or private post on Piazza) merely stating "something is wrong with my code, can you please take a look" is not likely to elicit an effective response. What do you think is wrong? Give your Tutor / Instructor a hint.
      • Never, ever, copy code that is posted on Piazza and paste such code into your own project (unless instructed to do so).
    • All students are also encouraged to seek academic support from the Center for Academic Services & Advising (CASA). CASA provides advising, tutoring, academic enrichment workshops, etc. Please take advantage of this valuable resource!
    • The Writing Center, located in Alderson Hall 133, is here to help all members of the Mines community with writing projects at any stage of the writing process. To make an appointment, please visit their online scheduling system at:

Learning Environment:
Fundamentally, we expect and require respect in this course for yourself, your classmates, and your instructor and teaching assistantships (TAs).
  • Respect for yourself includes taking care of yourself physically and mentally and advocating for an environment that facilitates learning for you.
  • Respect for your classmates includes recognizing and appreciating the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of your classmates and making it your interest to foster a learning environment for everyone; all are welcome.
  • Respect for your instructors (as well as your classmates) includes not participating in disruptive or distracting behavior: talking, playing games, or web surfing during lecture, for instance, make it difficult for others to focus on the reason we are all here.
  • Respect must be mutual to be effective; we (your instructors) and your TAs will be held to the same standards of respect.
Disabilities Accomodations: The Colorado School of Mines is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs, including students with disabilities. If you have been approved for accommodations with Disability Support Services (DSS), request that your instructor receives details on your accommodations through the Accessible Information Management (AIM) system. Then, contact your instructor to (1) ensure your accommodation letter has been received and (2) discuss your needs. For questions or other inquiries regarding disabilities, we encourage you to visit Disability Support Services (DSS) for more information.

Academic Integrity:
Academic Integrity: All students are advised to be familiar with university policy on Academic Integrity. In addition, CS@Mines faculty have adopted a Collaboration Policy exists for all courses. This policy is a minimum standard; your instructor may decide to augment this policy. You should read the CS@Mines Collaboration Policy. For CSCI 101, here are a few items to be aware:
  1. You are encouraged to discuss (NOT copy) assignments with other students in the class.
  2. If you discuss an assignment with anyone (not counting instructors/mentors), you must list their names in your submitted assignment AND provide a brief summary of the discussion.
  3. You are not allowed to give code you have developed to another student NOR copy code created by another student.
  4. You are allowed to view another student's code ONLY for the purpose of offering/receiving debugging assistance. (UPDATE: we encourage you to use office hours instead of friends/peers, since you are likely NOT in the same room anymore with your peer/friend.)
  5. UPDATE: You can ONLY share your screen in a 1:1 breakout room with an instructor/mentor/TA.
  6. Your discussion is subject to the empty hands policy, which means you leave the discussion without any record [electronic, mechanical or otherwise] of the discussion.
  7. Any material from any outside source, such as books, projects, and in particular, from the Web, should be properly referenced.
  8. If you are aware of students violating this policy, you are encouraged to inform the professor of the course.
  9. Violating this policy will be treated as an academic misconduct for all students involved (both the helper and the cheater). See the Student Handbook for details on academic dishonesty.
NOTE: All issues of misconduct are reported to the Dean of Students. Academic misconduct may result in course failure for all students involved (both the helper and the cheater).

Discrimination and Harassment:
This course and all learning opportunities at Mines require a safe environment for everyone to be productive, develop professional practices, and to be able to share and learn without fear of discrimination or harassment. Discrimination or harassment of any type will not be tolerated. Sometimes harassment is unintentional, but regardless of intent the instructor will address any language or behaviors that might discriminate, stereotype, or promote harassment. If you witness discrimination or harassment of others, please bring it to the attention of Mines faculty so it can be addressed immediately.

Title IX is a federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based on sex and gender in educational programs or activities. Mines takes its Title IX obligations seriously and is committed to providing a campus community free from gender-based discrimination. Gender-based discrimination, including sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking, and domestic violence, is prohibited within the Mines campus community. If these issues have impacted you or someone you know, you can find appropriate resources here: You can also contact the Mines Title IX Coordinator, Karin Ranta-Curran, at 303.384.2558 or for more information.

Please let your instructor know if you become aware of an issue with the classroom (or out-of-classroom) environment.

Food/Housing Insecurities:
Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify your professor if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable your professor to provide resources that may be available.

Maintenance/Legal Clause:
This syllabus is intended to give students guidance on our course this semester and will be followed as closely as possible. The course professor reserves the right to modify, supplement and make changes as the course needs arise. This syllabus is not a legal document; common sense rules always apply, e.g., no late assignments will be accepted after the solutions are discussed in class.

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