About the Course/Instructor

CSC 161 - Imperative Problem Solving and Data Structures - Weinman

1  About the Course

Q:
What is your advice/tip to go through CSC-161 readings?
A:
Don't get bogged down in the details, but don't overlook them either. First, tead the items in the order I've given them. (So if a textbook reading comes before a webpage we've written, read from teh book first!) Second, for each reading section, ask yourself
What is the most important sentence/idea/example in this reading?
Prioritizing information is an essential critical reading skill and worth practicing. (Of course, you should also attend to the procedure given in section 5.1 of the syllabus.)
Q:
In 151, I had a few issues with partners who did not do any work or not show up at all. In situations like this, what are some things that can be done to prevent our grade from decreasing?
A:
First, you should tell me if you partner is consistently uncooperative. Although you will have the opportunity to provide feedback on your assigned partners (which will contribute to my assessment of them), your goal in this situation is to make sure your current learning needs are taken care of. While I expect a certain amount of maturity in handling (and learning to handle) interpersonal management, sometimes matters rise above that expectation. Please let me know when you worry for your ability to complete work in a timely fashion.
Q:
In CSC-151, I was used to having take-home exams which I felt more comfortable with as I could run my programs, identify my errors and debug the program accordingly. It also helped me to write a more efficient program in general as I could spend more time on the programs. Why is the in-class examination style preferred for CSC-161?
A:
Being able to think through problems and sketch out solutions on paper is an important real-world skill. To be productive, you need to think clearly, rather than extensively relying on the compiler to catch silly errors (in many ways, your human grader is smarter than the compiler) or just trying code to see what works. In that way, I get a better assessment of how well you can really think.
Moreover, it takes you 4-6 times longer to complete a take home exam and it takes me at least 6-8 times longer to grade them. With 400% more CS students than when we started giving take home exams in CSC 151, that kind of time becomes much harder for faculty to find.
Q:
How hard is it?
A:
Everyone's experience in the course is different, and that's largely because everyone draws on different levels of experience. I believe everyone can learn this subject. The more you practice it, the less difficult it becomes (which is of course true of just about anything).
Q:
What are the best ways to review materials in order to fully understand the procedure that I learned in class and be able to apply them to advanced problems? (In addition to hw assignments, labs and other classroom exercises)
A:
As I mentioned before, prioritization. You can also use the terminal man pages for quick reference.
Q:
Do we get extra credit for catching errors in the professor's code?
A:
Not explicitly, but I tend to take such notices/feedback as a good sign and it reflects well on your participation.
Q:
What are your concerns about this course/what don't you like about teaching it? How does C compare to other languages you know?
A:
The finickiness of the robots is occasionally a pain. Otherwise, I enjoy it.
C is dreadfully simple. (Emphasis on the dread.) Because it's so low level AND interpretation of many things is so dependent on the specific platform, writing correct and portable code can be a challenge.

2  About Me

Q:
What kind of car do you drive?
A:
A 2001 Jeep Cherokee. (It's in the shop now and may be on its last axle sadly.)
Q:
What's your parenting philosophy?
A:
Attachment (lots of emotional support) and self-guided limit learning (you can do what you're big enough to do; just try not to break your arm).
Q:
Do you like Grinnell Dining Halls?
A:
It's way better than my college dining hall was (though that was 20 years ago; it's comparable in quality to Grinnell's today). So yes, I always enjoy eating there. (But I am sensitive to the fact that I don't eat all my meals there.)
Q:
How do you feel about the weather in Grinnell?
A:
I like having four seasons. (And it helps that I have both a snowblower and an affinity for cross-country skiing, even though I prefer downhill.) So, all in all, I suppose I like it as well as anyone might.
Q:
what is the most interesting research you ve ever contributed to?
A:
Tough one! I love the current project I'm doing on extracting information from old maps, but the first research project I did as a graduate student had potential for significant impact: estimating the volume of stroke lesions from MRIs to help doctors make clinical decisions. I've done several others, too.
Q:
Why did you choose to become a CS teacher instead of going into industry?
A:
The short (true) version is that I worked as a summer intern at a company in the financial/market industry, and as a twenty year old I didn't really like the stories the grizzled software veterans told (even though I had fun for a summer), so I thought I'd go to graduate school to define and work on bigger problems. Eventually I decided that competing with myself to be a better teacher (you're important!) was way better than competing with other professors for grant dollars in a more research-oriented academic environment.
Q:
What is your favorite place in the world?
A:
Snuggled up on the couch reading a book with my two boys. Ok, I twisted that one. But here's another wonderful place from my life. Nothing particularly special about it, but the Eastern hemlock forest and the converging brooks are just magical. I love the way the sunlight in summer drifts through the woods like slow falling snowflakes on a calm winter day.
Q:
Opinion on pineapple on pizza?
A:
I'm definitely down. Even better on grilled pizza.
Q:
What are things that you enjoy most besides teaching?
A:
Cooking (everything except baking) and reading fiction. (Not usually at the same time.)
Q:
Is the education system for tech/computing/STEM in a place where you are satisfied? If no, what would you do differently?
A:
We're (as a discipline) woefully understaffed and many of us are ignorant of evidence-backed practices for quality teaching (and now we're too overworked to get caught up). So if I could wave my magic wand, those are two things I'd fix. Then we can work on culture, etc.
Q:
What nerd things do you like?
A:
Hm. I don't generally like reading SciFi, but I do like reading work by Neal Stephenson. (I'm not sure whether he'd like that as an answer to your question.) I like learning new hacks for solving problems (like cool shell command sequences). To name a couple.
Q:
What is the coolest thing you or a student have made the MyroC do?
A:
I hope to convince some of the students in my Computer Vision class this semester to use the camera to do something cool.
Q:
What courses did you take outside of computers when you were in college?
A:
My minors were "Philosophy and Religion" and "Science, Technology, and Society" so mostly courses in those two areas. (My second major was Applied Mathematics.) I also audited Ancient Greek 101 right before I finished my PhD.