This course is an introduction to computational thinking: how we can describe and solve problems using a computer. The Visual Media section will focus on generating complex and interesting scenes and images through writing well-constructed programs. These applications will motivate how and why we would would want to write procedures, control the flow of information and processes, and organize information for easy access and manipulation. Through lectures, short homeworks, and weekly programming projects, you will learn about abstraction, how to divide and organize a process into appropriate components, how to describe processes in a computer language, and how to analyze and understand the behavior of their programs. While the projects are focused on visual media, the computational thinking skills you learn in this course are applicable to any type of programming or program design you may undertake in the future.

Semester Spring 2021
Times & Locations

Lecture: MWF 11:00 - 11:50 am
  Remote over Zoom

Lab: R 1:00 - 2:20 pm
  Remote over Zoom

Instructor Oliver W. Layton
Office hours: I am available to help outside of class time, please do not hesitate to come to office hours or send me an email. I try my best to get back to you as possible. Not only do I enjoy talking about computer science, I want to get to know you!

My weekly office hours over Zoom (link on Google Classroom):
  M 2-4pm
  T  2:30-4pm
  W 2-4pm
Evening TAs

In order to provide as much help as possible to you as you work on assignments in this course, the CS Department has hired the following upper-level CS students to work as TAs over Zoom in the evenings (link posted on Google Classroom). You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this resource. The TAs are getting paid to help you, so don't feel guilty about asking them for help.

Morning TA hours for students outside USA are in bold font.

Date (Time EST) TA Email
Sunday, 7:00 - 10:00 PM Jiyao Chen
Monday, 7:00 - 9:00 AM Ruize Li
Henry Weisman
Saki Imai
Monday, 7:00 - 10:00 PM Vincent Pak
Kirsten Pastore
Nida Fatima
Tuesday, 7:00 - 9:00 AM Ashley Ren
Tuesday, 7:00 - 9:00 AM Siyuan Peng
Tuesday, 4:00 - 7:00 PM Zainab Karim
Tuesday, 7:00 - 10:00 PM Jenniber Franco
Emerson Wright
Isabella Feng
Cynthia Rosas
Nicole Matamoros
Course Goals
  1. Students can read a simple program and correctly identify its behavior
  2. Students can convert a problem statement into a working program that solves the problem.
  3. Students understand abstraction and can break down a program into appropriate procedural and object-oriented components
  4. Students can generate an approximate model of computer memory and describe how an algorithm affects its contents.
  5. Students can communicate the result of their work and describe an algorithm

There will be regular opportunities for you to practice what you have learned and to demonstrate your accomplishments.

The course grade will be determined as follows:

Projects 50%

Hands-on opportunities to implement and explore concepts from lecture.

Assigned every week in lab (Wednesday) and due the following Tuesday night at 11:59pm EST.

Short homework assignments 5% Assigned most Mondays (due on Thursday 12pm noon EST; see details below), it will help you prepare for the quiz each Friday.

Graded in a binary fashion:
  1 if you made a serious attempt
  0 otherwise.
Quizzes 15% Short weekly online quizzes (given most Fridays after class). You have until Sunday night at 11:59pm EST to complete the quiz.
Participation 10% I expect you to be an active contributor in the classroom. This requires that you attend both Zoom lectures and lab if you are located in Maine's time zone. It is not a problem if you know that you will not be able to attend a lecture or lab, but please email me in advance to let me know.
Final Exam 20% A 3-hour opportunity at the end of the semester to demonstrate your ability to answer questions about course material.
Weekly Homework
  • I will distribute short weekly homework assignments most Monday after class on Google Classroom.
  • The homeworks themselves may not be worth much of your overall grade, but they prepare you for the quiz on Friday! Take them seriously and you should be well-prepared for the quiz.
  • The deadline is Thursday at noon (12pm) EST (Maine timezone). This is a hard deadline, because I post solutions on Google Classroom to help you study for the quiz on Friday.
    Late submissions will not be accepted.
  • Homework will be graded in a binary fashion: if you hand in a reasonable attempt, you get a 1, otherwise a 0.
Weekly quizzes
  • There is a 15 minute quiz most Fridays online on Moodle. You will have a ~2 day window to complete the quiz at a time that works best with your schedule (until Sunday night at 11:59pm EST).
  • The quizzes let you show me what you have learned. These should be quick and straightforward if you participate in lecture and review lecture notes.
  • I understand that everyone has a bad day; the quiz with the lowest grade will be dropped.
  • Each quiz may be made up when a prior request is made or there is a documented health issue.
  • Please contact me immediately in the event of illness and other unforeseen circumstances, we will work out accommodations.
Class Participation
  • You are expected to attend every class and lab, even though the course is offered remote. This is important for the overall learning experience and cohesion of the course.
  • Live attendance is optional if you are outside Maine's timezone — please email me to let me know. Video recordings of lectures and labs will be posted, usually within a few hours.
  • If you must miss a class for any reason, please email me in advance. I am happy to work with you.
  • For this course to be truly successful, your presence and participation is important. When you have a question, ask it. It is highly probable that one of your classmates has the same question.
Final Exam

There will be a final exam on Moodle at TBD. Like quizzes, you will have a 2 day window to take it. There are no make-ups.


It should go without saying that you should back up any files related to this course. If the code you submit to us is somehow lost (through your fault or our fault), I must be able to get another copy from you. I suggest keeping your CS151 labs and projects on Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive. That way, you always have a backup stored in the cloud.


There is no required textbook for this course. All lecture notes, whiteboards, and code from class will be posted in the Topics and Lecture Notes section of this website.

The following textbook is recommended if you would like to consult an additional resource. Note that the first edition is geared for a different version of Python (2nd or 3rd edition are ok).

John Zelle, Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science

How to succeed

Labs and Projects: Come to lab ready to focus on the new project. Ask me and TAs for help if you need it. Talk to your peers about the course concepts.

Quizzes: Study for the quizzes by doing the homeworks. We will drop the lowest quiz grade. If you make a silly mistake one week, it won't affect your grade.

Short homeworks: Try them. You will receive full credit as long as you make an honest attempt to complete every question. Please ask or email questions if something isn't clear. As long as you submit your response by Thursday at noon Google Classroom, you will get credit. Review the homework solutions on Thursday afternoon to check your understanding of the material before the quiz. There is no partial credit for late homeworks because the solutions are posted.

Participation: Speak up in class. Come to office hours. Ask your your instructor or TA for help.

Final Exam: The final exam will be similar to a large set of quizzes (but written from a more wholistic perspective). The best way to study for the final exam is to retake all of the old quizzes. Also, read through your notes and make sure you understand everything in them.

Collaboration, Academic honesty

Computer science, both academically and professionally, is a collaborative discipline. In any collaboration, however, all parties are expected to make their own contributions and to generously credit the contributions of others. In our class, therefore, collaboration on assignments is encouraged, but you as an individual are responsible for understanding all the material in the assignment and doing your own work. Always strive to do your best, give generous credit to others, start early, and seek help early from both your professors and classmates.

The following rules are intended to help you get the most out of your education and to clarify the line between honest and dishonest work. We reserve the right to ask you to verbally explain the reasoning behind any answer or code that you turn in and to modify your project grade based on your answers. It is vitally important that you turn in work that is your own. We do use automated plagiarism detection software, so please be sure to abide by these, rather minimal, rules. Reports of academic dishonesty are handled by an academic review board and a finding of academic dishonesty may result in significant sanctions. For more details on Colby's Academic Integrity policies and procedures, see

  • If you have had a substantive discussion of any homework or programming solution with a classmate, then be sure to cite them in your write-up. If you are unsure of what constitutes "substantive", then ask me or err on the side of caution. As one rule of thumb, you may discuss your approach to solving a problem, but you must not share or look at another classmate's code or written answers to project questions.
  • You must not copy answers or code from another student either by hand or electronically. Another way to think about it is that you should communicate with one another in natural human sentences, not in lines of code from a programming language.
The Colby Affirmation

Colby College is a community dedicated to learning and committed to the growth and well-being of all its members.

As a community devoted to intellectual growth, we value academic integrity. We agree to take ownership of our academic work, to submit only work that is our own, to fully acknowledge the research and ideas of others in our work, and to abide by the instructions and regulations governing academic work established by the faculty.

As a community built on respect for ourselves, each other, and our physical environment, we recognize the diversity of people who have gathered here and that genuine inclusivity requires active, honest, and compassionate engagement with one another. We agree to respect each other, to honor community expectations, and to comply with College policies.

As a member of this community, I pledge to hold myself and others accountable to these values. More ...

Academic Accommodations

I am available to discuss academic accommodations that any student with a documented disability may require. Please note that you’ll need to provide a letter from the Dean of Studies Office documenting your approved accommodations. Please meet with me to make a request for accommodations at the beginning of the semester--and at a minimum two weeks before any key due dates--so that we can work together with the College to make the appropriate arrangements for you.

Sexual Misconduct
(Title IX Statement)

Colby College prohibits and will not tolerate sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination of any kind. Colby is legally obligated to investigate sexual misconduct (including, but not limited to, sexual assault and sexual harassment) and other specific forms of behavior that violate federal and state laws (Title IX and Title VII, and the Maine Human Rights Act). Such behavior also requires the College to fulfill certain obligations under two other federal laws, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Statistics Act (Clery Act).

To learn more about what constitutes sexual misconduct or to report an incident, see:

If you wish to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, you may contact:

  • Counseling Center: 207-859-4490
  • Title IX coordinator: Meg Hatch
  • Gender and Sexual Diversity Program: Director Emily Schusterbauer ( 207-859-4093)
  • Office of Religious & Spiritual Life: 207-859-4272
    • Dean of Religious & Spiritual Life, Kurt Nelson (
    • Jewish Chaplain, Erica Asch (
    • Catholic Campus Minister, Charles Demm (

Students should be aware that faculty members are considered "responsible employees"; as such, if you disclose an incident of sexual misconduct to a faculty member, they have an obligation to report it to Colby's Title IX Coordinator. "Disclosure" may include communication in-person, via email/phone/text, or through class assignments.

Observance of Religious holidays

Colby College supports the religious practices of students, faculty, and staff, but we don't always know which people will observe which holidays. Since I need to plan course activities in advance, I need to know in advance, if you need to miss a class or have a deadline adjusted in order to observe a holiday. Please notify me by e-mail at least 14 days in advance of any religious holiday that will affect your ability to participate in this course.

© 2021 Oliver Layton