CS111 Course Information

Spring 2012

Table of Contents

Course Overview

CS111 is an introduction to the problem solving foundations of computer science. Computer science is the study of imperative (how to) knowledge, which is at the heart of any problem solving activity. Imperative knowledge is expressed via algorithms, which are descriptions of computational processes that can be encoded as programs written in a programming language. Programs communicate imperative knowledge between people; they can also be executed by computers.

In this course, you will learn big ideas about solving problems, developing algorithms, and organizing programs. These ideas include:

  • abstraction: capturing common patterns, hiding information, making specifications (contracts);
  • modularity: expressing programs as the composition of mix-and-match parts;
  • problem solving strategies: divide-conquer-glue, recursion, iteration;
  • models: ways to understand how programs are executed (in this course, you'll learn the Java Execution Model (JEM) for this purpose);

You will get hands-on experience with these ideas by reading, modifying, debugging, designing, writing, and testing Java programs. Example programs will involve various graphical microworlds, text manipulation, Java graphics, and animations.

CS111 students must register for and attend a weekly laboratory. Problem solving and programming are skills best learned by doing.

The course uses the Java programming language to explore these ideas. Although you will learn a lot about Java along the way, our focus is on the big ideas. You will really be learning and practicing techniques for solving problems — techniques that apply to any programming language, and, indeed, to any discipline.

CS111 is required for students who wish to major or minor in computer science or elect more advanced courses in the field. Students can receive MM distribution credit for only one of 110, 111, 112, 114, and 117. Consult Choosing an Introductory CS Course online at http://cs.wellesley.edu/~cs/Curriculum/curriculum.html.

Prerequisite: None. No prior computer science background is expected.
Distribution: Mathematical Modeling. Does not satisfy laboratory requirement.
Unit: 1.0

Instructors and Teaching Assistants

Instructor Office Email Office Hours
Lyn Turbak
SCI-E126 fturbak@wellesley.edu Mondays 4-6pm (in SCI 257),
Tuesdays 12:30-5pm (in SCI E126),
and by appointment
Lab Instructor:
Jean Herbst
SCI-E129 jherbst@wellesley.edu Tues 10am-12pm,
Thurs 1:30-4:00PM,
and by appointment
Lab Instructor:
Stella Kakavouli
SCI-E131 skakavou@wellesley.edu Mondays 10am - 12pm,
Thursdays 1:30pm - 2:30pm,
Fridays 10am - 12pm,
and by appointment

We have seven top-notch teaching assistants who will hold drop-in hours, help out in lab, and grade problem sets: Linda Ding, Emily Erdman, Liz Ferme, Michelle Ferreirae, Olivia Kotsopoulos, Smaranda Sandu, and Kelsey Tempel.

CS111 drop-in teaching assistants will usually be available in SCI 257 on the following nights and times.

Through Apr. 06, the regular weekly drop in hours are as follows:
Kelsey 4-6pm
Smaranda 6-8pm
Michelle 8-10pm

Emily 6-8pm
Liz and Linda 7-9pm
Olivia 8-10pm

From Apr. 17 through May 03, the regular weekly drop in hours are as follows:
Michelle 8 - 10pm

Olivia 6:30-8:30pm
Smaranda 7-9pm
Emily 8-10pm

Kelsey 6-8pm
Liz and Linda 8-10pm

Feel free to come to any of us, or any of the TAs, for help. Faculty meetings and seminars sometimes conflict with scheduled office hours. We will keep you informed each week about any changes in our office hours.

Class Meetings

There are two 70-minute lectures each week, which will introduce the main content of the course.

  1. CS111 01 (Lyn Turbak) MTh 9:50--11am in SCI 257 (note change in room!)
  2. CS111 02 (Lyn Turbak) MTh 11:10am--12:20pm in SCI 257

Each week there is also a mandatory 2-hour laboratory session.

  1. CS111 L01 (Stella Kakavouli) W 8:30--10:20am in SCI 257
  2. CS111 L02 (Stella Kakavouli) W 10:30am--12:20pm in SCI 257
  3. CS111 L03 (Stella Kakavouli) W 2:15am--4:05pm in SCI 257
  4. CS111 L04 (Jean Herbst) W 2:15am--4:05pm in SCI E101

Course Text and Reference Materials

Materials for Computer Science 111 may be found on the course web site http://cs.wellesley.edu/~cs111. Notes and example programs for most lectures may be found in the course schedule. Review materials will be posted during the semester on the CS111 Notes Page.

There is an optional textbook for CS111. A few readings will be assigned from the textbook, but these readings will be made available as a Google Docs collection, which will be shared with you, so you do not need to purchase the textbook. When you log into Google Apps with your Wellesley email address, the collection should appear in Google Docs under Collections shared with me as CS111-E-Reserve.

The optional text for the course is Programming and Problem Solving with Java, Second Edition, written by Nell Dale and Chip Weems, and published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Students may also benefit from other good references. There are many on-line Java tutorials and references. The definitive source is the Java site by Sun Microsystems , the creators of the Java language: http://java.sun.com.

Other valuable references are the many introductory Java textbooks that are available on the bookshelves in SCI 257 and SCI E125 (see below).

SCI 257 Bookshelves: The CS department has purchased a collection of books relevant to CS111 that are kept on the bookshelves in SCI 257.

SCI E125 Library: The CS department maintains a large collection of computer science books (including lots of introductory Java books) in the hardware lab (room SCI E125). It's a good idea to become familiar with this room and the book collection early on.

Science Center Library: Many Java programming books can be borrowed from the Science Center library.


Your final grade will be based on a weighted average of the following components:

Problem Sets 40%
Exam 1 (in class) 15%
Exam 2 (take home) 25%
Final Exam 20%

At the end of the semester, we will compute a weighted average for each student and assign letter grades. In general, the mapping from numerical score to letter grades looks like this: >= 93.33 is an A, >= 90.00 is an A-, >= 86.67 is a B+, >= 83.33 is a B, >= 80.00 is a B-. >= 76.67 is a C+, >= 73.33 is a C, >= 70.00 is a C-, >= 60.00 is a D and < 60.00 is an F.

Depending on the overall performance of the class, we may adjust this mapping.

The above information is intended to tell you how we grade. It is not intended to instill in you a preoccupation with point accumulation. We encourage you to treat points in this class as you would Monopoly money. If you focus on learning the material, the grade will normally take care of itself.


There will be three exams, all open book and open notes: one in-class midterm (70 minutes), one take-home midterm, and a final exam (2.5 hours) during the regular exam period. Check the course schedule for scheduling and mark the dates in your calendars, as exam dates are not flexible.


The mandatory, weekly, 2-hour laboratory sessions consist of additional instruction and both written and online problem-solving exercises. The exercises provide hands-on practice with new material and with problems similar to the weekly homework assignments. In lab, students work at their own pace and can get help from the lab instructor and a teaching assistant. Although lab problems are similar to homework problem, lab is not a place to work on homework.


Almost weekly problem sets will help you develop a working knowledge of the concepts presented in class. Assignments are due at 5pm on their due date (typically a Tuesday). By that time, you should submit both (1) a hardcopy of your assignment and (2) a softcopy (i.e., electronic copy) of all your code to the appropriate drop folder. More detailed instructions for submitting assignments are included in each assignment.

Instructions for turning in each assignment will be included with the assignment. We ask you to keep track of the time you spend on each problem to help us design problem sets for future semesters. Each problem set will come with a header sheet on which you can report the times you spent on the problems.

The amount of time required to complete each assignment varies from student to student and from assignment to assignment. For many students, most assignments take roughly 10 hours.

In order for us to grade and return assignments promptly, we cannot accept late assignments. In extenuating circumstances (e.g., sickness, personal crisis, family problems, religious holidays), you may request an extension. We will often require that an extension request be made on your behalf by your dean.

If you have not completed an assignment, you should still turn in your work for partial credit. You will learn techniques in lab for developing a program in stages, gradually solving more and more of a problem. If there is something that you cannot get to work, do the best you can and comment out code that does not compile. Including a description of your strategy and what is going wrong in the comments can result in some partial credit.

Many of the assignments will be challenging. Keep in mind that programming often consumes more time than you think it will. Start your problem sets early so that you have time to think about the problems and ask questions if you hit an impasse. Waiting until the last minute is a recipe for disaster.

Also, keep in mind that computers do break down and that, outside of laboratory hours, you may have to compete with other students for a computer. Plan accordingly (and back up your work often)!

Assignments are listed on the course schedule.


We will be using the DrJava development environment to create and compile Java programs on the Macintosh and the PC. We are using the Java SE Development Kit (JDK) version 6.0 (bizarrely also numbered 1.6). This software is installed on most public computers on campus. If you would like to program in this environment on your own computer, we have some helpful information available about computing at home.

Coursework for this class will require you to use computing resources provided by the Information Services (IS) group on campus. Specifically, you need to be comfortable with Google Apps, a file-transfer program (Fetch on Macs, WinSCP on PCs), and a web browser (e.g., Safari or Internet Explorer on the Mac, Firefox or Internet Explorer on PCs). If you have any questions about these applications, see the Computing web pages.

Google Apps

We will be using Google Apps for two purposes: to communicate with you and to share documents.

Google Group
We have created a Google Group, CS111 Spring12, and have added all students enrolled for the class as members. If you have not received a confirmation email, please let us know, so that we can add you. You can send emails to this group at the email address: cs111-spring12@wellesley.edu.

You are encouraged to post questions or comments that are of general interest to people in the course. Also, you are encouraged to respond to questions posted by other students. In addition, the instructors and TAs will read the CS111 Spring12 group on a regular basis and post answers to questions found here. This is a good place to find people to join a study group or ask questions about the course or about homework (please do not post any Java code here — all homework discussions should be at a high-level English description).

CS111-E-Reserve Google Docs Collection
All reading materials for the course are stored in a Google Docs collection titled CS111-E-Reserve which is shared with all enrolled students. If you haven't received a confirmation, let us know, in order to give you access. You should be able to access this collection from the Google Documents menu, when you login to Google Apps. It will show up under the label Collections shared with me.

Finding Help

If you have any questions at all about the class (whether big or small, whether on labs, problem sets, lectures, reading, or whatever) please contact one of us: the lecturer, lab instructors, or a TA. That's what we're here for!

Simple questions can often be answered via the CS111 Spring12 group via email to an instructor. Questions of general interest (e.g. clarifying ambiguities in an assignment, wondering why posted programs don't work as expected) should be posted to the CS111 Spring12 group.

If you have a complex question or need help in understanding the material, you are encouraged to see the instructors or a CS111 teaching assistant. The best time to see us in person is during our scheduled office hours and drop-in hours (listed at the top of this document).

Drop-in teaching assistants are available to answer your questions during certain hours. The names and schedules of the drop-in teaching assistants are given above.

Some hints on working with teaching assistants:

  • Drop-in teaching assistants tend to get the most questions near the end of their time slot. Try to arrive in SCI 257 early so that you can ask questions in the first part of their shift.
  • Just like you, drop-in teaching assistants have lots of work and very tight schedules. It is not reasonable to expect them to help you after their official tutoring hours are over.
  • Teaching assistants tend to see less traffic far in advance of the problem set due date. Start your work early so that you can take advantage of all the available drop-in hours.
  • Please sign the log book every time you get help from a teaching assistant. The log book is a record of how much demand there is for teaching assistants, and affects how many teaching assistants we can have in future semesters.

If you need more personalized attention than a drop-in teaching assistant can provide, you can get a one-on-one tutor from the Pforzheimer Learning and Teaching Center (PLTC). This service is confidential, free of charge, and no stigma is attached to it. It is a wonderful way to get additional help — please take advantage of this program if you think you might need it!

Finally, when looking for help, don't overlook other students. Get to know your classmates early in the term so that you can help each other out!

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who are taking this class and who need disability-related accomodations are encouraged to work with Barbara Boger, Director of Programs, the Learning and Teaching Center (for learning or attention disabilities), or Jim Wice, Director of Disability Services (for physical disabilities), to arrange accomodations. Their offices are in Clapp Library.