CSE120 Computer Science Principles



Why Take CSE120
All of the factual information that you need to know to take this course is contained in this page. If anything is missing or unclear, please let me know.
Panic Button
   Anonymous Email
To Instructors
Class Overview
   THIS Week
Class Examples
Free Programming

Topic List

  • The "Experiment"
  • Catalog Information
  • Textbook
  • Grading
  • Academic Conduct
  • Accessibility

The "Experiment"

Computer Sciences Principles is a pilot course being developed as part of the AP Computer Science Principles Project. Four other schools are participating: UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and UNC at Charlotte. The goal is to create a curriculum for a new high school Advanced Placement course that is appropriate for general students. (AP CS A Java Programming will continue.) Think of UW's class as the class you would skip if you took the new AP CS Principles class in high school and passed the AP test on it.

Because CSE120 is part of this large project, we will do a few things differently from the normal UW class. For example, there is a survey at the start and end of the term asking you questions about the course. There will be additional people evaluating what we do. So, you will be asked your opinion more often than in a normal class. None of this should be burdensome or distracting. Actually, I hope we hardly notice it.

Catalog Information

  • Course Number CSE 120
  • Course Title: Computer Science Principles
  • Offering [pilot]: Winter, 2011
  • Lectures [50 minutes]: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 12:30-1:20, LOW 216
  • Labs [closed, 50 minutes]: Tuesday, Thursday 12:30-1:20; MGH 044
  • Credit Hours: 5
  • Fulfills Requirements: Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning
  • Pre-requistes: None
  • Description: Fundamentals of computer science essential for educated people living in the 21st C, taught with two concurrent themes. Creativity Theme topics: Computing as a creative activity, processing of data creates knowledge, abstraction, levels of abstraction, managing complexity, , computational thinking, programming (in Processing language) debugging. Principles Theme topics: Data and information, algorithms, basic ideas behind technologies including computers, networks, search engines, and multimedia. Social uses and abuses of information, and the foundations of privacy.


This is a new course; no one has written a textbook yet. We will use the Getting Started book by Reas and Fry for the Processing Language; they invented it. It's a really sweet little book, and inexpensive ($9.99 -$13.00 through online book sellers). There are few things you'll buy this term that are a better value; this book is WORTH its price. Otherwise, we will use readings that will be assigned incrementally.

We will also use Blown To Bits by Abelson, Leeden and Lewis in our discussion of privacy. This is also an excellent book and if your budget is up to it, I encourage you to buy it. It is also online, which is perhaps the best way to get the excerpts that we will be reading.

  • Getting Started with Processing by Casey Reas and Ben Fry, O'Reilly 2010
  • Blown To Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness After The Digital Explosion
    by Hal Abelson, Ken Leeden and Harry Lewis, 2010; find it at online booksellers.
    Online Edition
  • Readings: To Be Assigned.


CS Principles has many aspects and they all contribute to your success in the class, and therefore, to your grade. The components of your grade are:

  • Homework Two-day assignments that give practice with various topics. Each assignment will take approximately 1-2 hours to complete; they are almost all on-line.
  • Project One 2.5-week project gives an opportunity for a more substantial computing experience.
  • Midterm The midterm exam is Monday Feb 7; a page of notes is allowed.
  • Final The final is on Thursday March 17; two pages of notes are allowed.
  • Experimental Participation Because CS Principles is part of a large experiment, you will be asked to give feedback about your experiences in this class. You are probably willing to give your feedback anyhow, but your instructor and all of the people involved in this experiment appreciate your contribution. So, it's worth points! Here's the run down:
    • Pre, Post Survey, each: 20 pts
    • After Image Recap, each: 10 pts
    • Whatever else: TBA pts
  • Reading, Writing, Discussing, Thinking In class and on the discussion board "non scientific" matters will be treated, such as ethics, social behavior, privacy and other topics about which people have opinions. Your thoughtful participation will be of value to all. Each opportunity will be worth 5 pts, and contributing constructively is all that's required to earn the points.

The grade weighting is as follows:

  • Homwork Assignments: 35%
  • Project: 10%
  • Midterm: 10%
  • Final: 20%
  • ExPar: 15%
  • RWDT: 10%
The gradebook will be updated regularly; please check it regularly to be sure scores have been recorded correctly.

Academic Conduct

The following paragraphs discussing academic integrity, copyright and privacy outline matters governing student conduct in CSE and the University of Washington. They apply to all assignments and communications in this course.

Academic Integrity

The essence of academic life revolves around respect not only for the ideas of others, but also their rights to those ideas and their promulgation. It is therefore essential that all of us engaged in the life of the mind take the utmost care that the ideas and expressions of ideas of other people always be appropriately handled, and, where necessary, cited. For writing assignments, when ideas or materials of others are used, they must be cited. The format is not that important–as long as the source material can be located and the citation verified, it’s OK. What is important is that the material be cited. In any situation, if you have a question, please feel free to ask. Such attention to ideas and acknowledgment of their sources is central not only to academic life, but life in general. Please acquaint yourself with the University of Washington's resources on academic honesty.

Students are encouraged to take drafts of their writing assignments to the English Department Writing Center for assistance with using citations ethically and effectively. Information on scheduling an appointment can be found here.


All of the expressions of ideas in this class that are fixed in any tangible medium such as digital and physical documents are protected by copyright law as embodied in title 17 of the United States Code. These expressions include the work product of both: (1) your student colleagues (e.g., any assignments published here in the course environment or statements committed to text in a discussion forum); and, (2) your instructors (e.g., the syllabus, assignments, reading lists, and lectures). Within the constraints of "fair use," you may copy these copyrighted expressions for your personal intellectual use in support of your education here in the UW. Such fair use by you does not include further distribution by any means of copying, performance or presentation beyond the circle of your close acquaintances, student colleagues in this class and your family. If you have any questions regarding whether a use to which you wish to put one of these expressions violates the creator's copyright interests, please feel free to ask the instructor for guidance.


To support an academic environment of rigorous discussion and open expression of personal thoughts and feelings, we, as members of the academic community, must be committed to the inviolate right of privacy of our student and instructor colleagues. As a result, we must forego sharing personally identifiable information about any member of our community including information about the ideas they express, their families, life styles and their political and social affiliations. If you have any questions regarding whether a disclosure you wish to make regarding anyone in this course or in the university community violates that person's privacy interests, please feel free to ask the instructor for guidance.

Knowing violations of these principles of academic conduct, privacy or copyright may result in University disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct.


To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services: 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from DSS indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in the class.

Academic accommodations due to disability will not be made unless the student has a letter from DSS specifying the type and nature of accommodations needed.

     Contact: snyder at cs dot washington dot edu