CS 453 Spring 2021     [Syllabus]       Research Projects  

Description Contact Schedule Grading Course Policies General Policies

Course Description

CS 453 Special Topics in New Media and Interactive Systems

Students in groups will work on a semester-long project in which they design, build and run a human computer interaction study or interactive media arts installation. Students will learn how to conduct a literature review, formulate a question, collect data, evaluate the results and present findings. The course would culminate in a presentation and a report in the style of a conference paper or art installation submission.

Learning Objectives

  1. Conduct a literature review and formulate a question, evaluating the reliability, meaningfulness and relevance of related literature to a given research problem.
  2. Design, build and evaluate systems at varying levels of fidelity, from prototypes to fully functional, interactive systems.
  3. Use, adapt and extend design and evaluation methods to real-world problems and justify design decisions taking into account conceptual, practical, and ethical issues involved in evaluation.
  4. Present findings, describing and explaining how a system that they have designed works, how it was evaluated and the results of the evaluation.
  5. Work collaboratively in pairs or small groups to design, build and evaluate systems.

Contact Information

Hannen Wolfe
Office: Davis 114
Email: hewolfe@colby.edu
In addition to office hours, you are welcome to send me email with a question. I will respond within 24hrs, M-F 8am-5pm. If you find the solution before I respond please email me to let me know.

Office hours:
Remote drop-in office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 8-9:30am
Office hours by appointment are Mondays 3-5pm and Thursdays 3-4pm
More office hour information including: Drop-in sign-in sheet, zoom link and appointment calendar link

General Schedule


Time: Tu/Th 11:00am-12:15pm
Place: Davis 102

Weekly Course Schedule

Monday: Previous week's project or check-in due at 11:59pm
Wednesday: Forum post / homework due at 11:59pm



Group Project 75% Cumulative student designed project.
Participation Assignments 25% Forum Posts, reading responses, in class assignments, and peer evaluations.

Participation Assignments

Deadline: Submission due 6 days after assigned at 11:59pm

  • 1.0pt if ontime and complete
  • 0.5pt if ontime and incomplete
  • 0.5pt if submitted within 1 week and complete
  • 0.0pt if after 1 week
Turn in Instructions:
    Please follow the instructions on Google Classroom.
You are expected to attend every class. The course will involve both lectures and hands-on activities in lab. For this course to be truly successful, your presence and participation in lecture and lab is important. When you have a question, ask it. It is highly probable that one of your classmates has the same question. When we give you an opportunity to share your opinion or your answer, please speak up. We want to hear what you have to say. Discussion is a vital part of the learning experience. Good class discussion needs your contribution. If you must miss a class, you are responsible for making up the material covered in that lecture.

Course Policies

Use of electronics in class

Please make sure your cell phones are off. I discourage the use of smartphones unless used as a mandated accommodation. It is distracting for those around you (Sana et al., 2013), for lecturers, and can be distracting for you. There is also empirical evidence that students learn better and remember more by taking notes by hand (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). Please see me if you have concerns about this and I will work with you to support your learning needs.

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 homework and programming 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 colby.edu/academicintegrity.

  • 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, if you see more than 10 lines of someone else's code, then you should cite them. You will not be penalized for working together.
  • 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 be talking English with one another, not program languages.

Help and Discussion Outside of Lecture

  • Office Hours: I will all be available to help outside of class time with questions about concepts or projects. Please do not hesitate to stop by my office hours, or send me an email. Not only do I enjoy talking about computer science, I want to get to know you!

    • Drop-in Office Hours: Drop in office hours are a time for students to stop by and ask questions, or just hang out and work. I will be available on zoom during this time.

    • Office Hours by Appointment: You can schedule a one-on-one office hour appointment. Please sign up on google calendar at least an hour before the session.

  • Email: In addition to office hours, you are welcome to send me email with a question. I will respond within 24hrs, M-F 9am-6pm

  • Guidelines:
    • 30-Minute Rule: If you have been stuck on a problem, such as a bug, for more than 30 minutes and have made no progress, despite your best efforts, please stop and get help. Email one of us, ask a TA, or consult a peer. If you don't get an answer immediately, do something else for a while. Please do not waste your time on one problem.
    • We are always happy to help you with any of your code for your projects. However, the earlier you come to us with questions, the happier we'll be to help you (we usually respond to a last-minute call for major help with the question "Why didn't you start earlier?").
    • Please feel free to raise any concerns or complaints about the course directly with either of us. You are also welcome to send us your concerns anonymously. We will gladly respond to them


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), we must be able to get another copy from you. We suggest you use the college's personal server (filer.colby.edu) to store your work in this class, as it is regularly backed up.

You should never leave your work in a public folder on a computer in a public lab. Instead your work should always be kept in your private account or copied to your own media such as flash drives and deleted from the computer's hard disk when you are finished using the computer.

Don't gloss over errors in your code. That is, if you pretend there are no errors in your code when you know there are some there, we will take off more points than if you point out the errors that you were unable to fix.

General Policies

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 that 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.

What does this mean to students?
  • We respect each other and ourselves.
  • We respect our physical spaces on campus.
  • We respect our academics and complete work honestly.

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). You can learn more about what constitutes sexual misconduct or to report an incident here.

If you wish to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, you may contact:
  • Counseling Center: 207-859-4490
  • Emily Schusterbauer, Director Gender and Sexual Diversity Program (eeschust@colby.edu; 207- 859-4093)
  • Office of Religious & Spiritual Life: 207-859-4272
  • Dean of Religious & Spiritual Life, Kurt Nelson (kdnelson@colby.edu)
  • Jewish Chaplain, Erica Asch (elsasch@colby.edu)
  • Catholic Campus Minister, Charles Demm (cademm@colby.edu)
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 Melvin Adams, Colby's Title IX Coordinator. "Disclosure" may include communication in-person, via email/phone/text, or through class assignments.

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 within two weeks of the start of the semester to make a request for accommodations so that we can work together with the College to make the appropriate arrangements for you. Kate McLaughlin, Associate Director of Access and Disability Services (kmclaugh@colby.edu) is the primary contact for accommodations and any questions related to educational testing and documentation.

Mental health: I care about my students’ well-being and understand they may face mental health challenges. Students are encouraged to seek support from the College’s available resources, including your advising dean and Counseling Services. (For immediate care, please call 207-859-4490 and press “0” to reach the on-call counselor.) I am willing to discuss reasonable accommodations during a crisis, but to fulfill our educational mission, students are expected to adhere to the attendance policy. Failure to do so because of mental health challenges may require consultation with the Dean of Studies Office.

Respect for Diversity

It is my intent that students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students' learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. I expect you to feel challenged and sometimes outside of your comfort zone in this course, but it is my intent to present materials and activities that are inclusive and respectful of all persons, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture, perspective, and other background characteristics.

I have attempted to avoid scheduling exams during major religious holidays. If, however, I have inadvertently scheduled an exam or major deadline that creates a conflict with your religious observances, please let me know within two weeks of the start of classes so that we can make other arrangements. Colby College is supportive of the religious practices of its students, faculty, and staff. The College is committed to ensuring that all students are able to observe their religious beliefs without academic penalty.

Class rosters are provided to each instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name and/or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.