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.

Section C
Semester Spring 2021
Date Time, Location
  • lecture: M-W-F 12:00 - 12:50 pm, Davis 102
  • lab: W 2:30 - 3:50 pm, Davis 102
Instructor Naser Al Madi
Office: Davis 215
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 Moodle). 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.

TA Hours: All TA sessions will be over Zoom in Fall 2020. Here is the TA schedule and Windows Support and here are the instructions for logging into the Zoom meeting and putting\ your name on the request-for-help list.

Course Goals The learning goals for the lecture and lab are the same -- both are meant to work together to accomplish the goals for the course as a whole. They are
  1. Students can read a simple program and correctly identify its behavior.
  2. Students understand abstraction and can break down a program into appropriate procedural and object-oriented components.
  3. Students can generate an approximate model of computer memory and describe how an algorithm affects its contents.
  4. Students can communicate the result of their work and describe an algorithm.
  5. Students can convert a problem statement into a working program that solves the problem..
Labs and Projects

The work in lab will lead into and be part of the week's project. Labs will also count significantly towards participation.

During each lab, the instructor will not be able to answer questions about any projects until you have completed the exercises for that lab.

Programming projects involve completing more significant programs as well as a writeup describing the work completed in the project.


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.

Short homework assignments 5% Assigned each Monday (due on Thursday at noon; 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 or biweekly online quizzes (given most Fridays during or after class).
Participation 10% I expect you to be an active contributor in the classroom. This requires you to attend both lectures (in-person or through Zoom) and lab. 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.
Online 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 every Monday after class on Moodle.
  • 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). This is a hard deadline, because I post solutions on Moodle 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 in-person or online on Moodle.
  • 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 off campus — please email me to let me know.
  • 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 an online final exam 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 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 we may go over the answers in class on Friday before you take the quiz.

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.

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

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