Syllabus

Contents:

Grading

My goal is for everyone taking this course to be able to demonstrate familiarity and fluency with the course concepts. I would be very happy if you each met the goals above and received an A. The following weighting will provide a basis for evalution.

Participation (including labs)
10%
Warm-up exercises
10%
Homework
30%
Midterm 1
15%
Midterm 2
15%
Final Exam 20%

Note that half your grade is based on outcomes (the three exams), and the other half is based on process (participation, warm-ups, and homework).

Class meetings

To make class time most valuable for you, I do not plan to lecture on all of the material you will be responsible for learning. Rather, you should come to class prepared to clarify, discuss, and practice the ideas in the text by reading any assigned material before class. To facilitate this, you will be assigned "warmup problems" to complete before class.

I expect you to come to every class prepared to participate.  If you miss class, it is your responsibility to talk to a classmate about what you missed and then to see me to discuss any further questions or concerns.

Since our classes will take place bright and early at 8 a.m., everyone gets one "oops," one free day off while still getting full credit for participation. One unexcused absence (your "oops" day) will have no effect on your participation score. Missing 2-3 classes (one week) will reduce your participation score by 10 points. Missing 4-6 classes (two weeks) will reduce your participation grade by 25 points. Missing 7-9 classes (three weeks) will reduce your participation grade by 50 points. Missing more than 9 classes will result in a 0 for participation.

To have your absence count as excused, you must either (a) contact me to make suitable arrangements at least one class-week in advance, or (b) ensure that I receive documentation of the circumstances of your absence from Health Services or Student Affairs. Because I care about you, if you miss class unexpectedly, I would also appreciate a quick call or email as soon as you are able.  Don't be surprised if I email to make sure you are OK.

Textbook and readings

Our primary textbook is

Although not organized perfectly for our class, this is the standard undergraduate textbook I compared other options to. This was the clearest and most readable of the options, while still being at an appropriate collegiate level. I will supplement our primary textbook with eReserves and handouts from other textbooks, along with the occasional lecture.

Before each class, you should check the class schedule for changes and do any reading that has been assigned. To get the most out of the readings, try the SQ3R method:

Survey:
Skim the material, especially the introduction, summary, and headings, to get the big picture and an idea of what is important.
Question:
Formulate questions that you expect the reading to answer.
Read:
Read thoroughly, with particular attention to how the questions are answered.
Recite:
Check that you can answer the questions, in your own words, from memory.
Review:
Go back over the whole, focusing on parts for which you can't answer the questions. Also note any questions you have that the reading doesn't answer or that you are still confused about, so that you can ask these questions in class.

Note also that our textbook includes examples and "check yourself" problems. I encourage you to read the examples carefully and try the "check yourself" problems; you can find the answers at the end of each chapter. If they don't make sense, ask about them!

Assignments and activities

Under a normal 16 credit load, I expect that you will spend at least 40 hours per week on your studies (class time, homework, and studying). Thus, you should plan to spend roughly 10-12 hours per week on this course. With class and lab time clocking in at 313 hours, you'll have at least 623 hours per week left for the following:

Reading
As noted above, plan to complete assigned readings the evening before class.
Warm-up exercises
Warm-up exercises will be assigned for most evenings before class, and are designed to prepare you for class. You will complete a short exercise through PioneerWeb, and will have the opportunity to indicate what you'd like to spend time on in class. Warm-up exercises will be graded on a binary scale (done or not done).
Laboratory Work
In lab, we will work with electronic components, with software, and with combinations of the two. As examples, you will build digital circuits (real and virtual), and you will write assembly programs for AVR microcontrollers that do fun tasks such as flashing lights and sounding buzzers. You will work in pairs of your choice. Many labs will require some preparatory work, which will count as a warm-up exercise. You will not be graded on your laboratory work, but you are expected to participate.

We will work with relatively expensive equipment in this course. The equipment must stay in SCI 3818, and the door should remain locked outside of lab times. You will be given the door combination, but you must not make the combination public.

Homework
Homework assignments will be due approximately weekly. Some of them are likely to be extensions of work begun in lab. The assignments will include written work and computer programs. Written work should be neat and tidy! If I cannot read your work, I can not grade it.
Exams
You will have opportunities to demonstrate what you have learned through written, take-home exams due at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, October 7 and Friday, November 11. Class will be canceled each of those days to give you additional time to work on the exam (or to recover from working on the exam).

In accordance with the schedule issued by the Committee on Academic Standing, the final examination for this course will take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 13.  Do not make travel arrangements that would prevent your presence.  The final exam will be cumulative; you will be responsible for the content of the entire course.

Deadlines

Warm-up exercises are due at midnight before class and will not be accepted late. However, I will grant you two "oops" days; that is, you may miss two sets of warm-up exercises without penalty.

Homework assignments will be due at 5:30 p.m.  Each assignment will indicate how it should be submitted (usually via email or on paper). Assignments that are submitted after 5:30 p.m. will be considered late. Aside from exceptional circumstances documented by SHACS or Student Affairs, and the grace day policy described below, I will not accept late homework assignments.

Every student will be granted three grace days that can be used for any homework assignment, for any reason. A grace day is an automatic extension until the next day on which we have class (Monday, Wednesday, or Friday). Please use your grace days wisely:you may need them more in the future than you do now! I would appreciate hearing in advance by email if you intend to use a grace day on a particular assignment. However, any assignment submitted late will automatically use a grace day if you have one left to use.

Exception: Deadlines for exercises involving programming will automatically be extended by at least one class period if MathLAN is down for an unscheduled period of 3 or more hours during the week preceeding the assignment due date.  No such extension will be granted for exercises not involving programming.

Absolute deadline: In accordance with the rules of the College, all work must be turned in by Friday, December 16 at 5 p.m.

Collaboration and Academic Honesty

Homework
You may work on homework assignments individually or with a partner. (You may make a different decision on this for each assignment.) If you work with a partner on an assignment, you should produce and submit a single assignment with both names on it. You will both receive the full credit for the assignment.

Be aware that exams are likely to include problems that are similar to homework problems. If you work with a partner, be sure that you both contribute equally and fully understand every problem on the assignment.

The assignments are written such that it is reasonable to do them alone. The point of allowing collaboration is to improve your learning, not to increase your free time.

You may also talk with others about the homework. However, except with your partner, you may only talk. You may not share specific answers, you may not leave a discussion with written notes, and you may not share code. You should cite the people that you have such discussions with if you get ideas from them.

Exams
You may prepare one, double-sided, 8.5" x 11" sheet of hand-written notes to consult during each exam. You will turn in this sheet along with your exam, and it will be returned to you later. One of my reasons for this policy is that computer scientists often use reference materials in their work; I would rather have you learn to apply principles and formulas than memorize them. However, I also find that preparing such notes---and in particular, deciding what is most important to include---can be a very effective way to study.
Because I intend the take-home exams and final exam to assess your own individual understanding of the material, collaboration on exams is not permitted.  Of course, I encourage you to collaborate while studying for exams.

Accomodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities and require accomodations, let me know early in the semester so that we can work together to meet your learning needs.  You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to the Dean for Student Academic Support and Advising, Joyce Stern, located on the 3rd floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3702).


Janet Davis (davisjan@cs.grinnell.edu)

Created August 22, 2011
Last revised August 24, 2011
With thanks to Marge Coahran and Henry Walker