The Story Behind CSP

Course Description

Introduces fundamental concepts of computer science and computational thinking. Includes logical reasoning, problem solving, data representation, abstraction, the creation of “digital artifacts” such as Web pages and programs, managing complexity, operation of computers and networks, effective Web searching, ethical, legal and social aspects of information technology.

There are no prerequisites to taking CSE 120.

This class is intended for students with no (or very little) prior programming experience. If you've taken CSE142 or 143 (or AP CS A) previously and passed, then you will likely find this course too easy and we ask that you find another class to take.

Course Materials

All materials for this course are freely available online!

  • Programming Language: Processing is available at
    The latest version at the start of the Wi18 quarter is version 3.3.6.
  • Text Editor: Feel free to use your preferred editor, but we have installed Brackets on the lab machines, available at
  • FTP Program: You will use a file transfer protocol (FTP) program to upload files to your website portfolio. If you do not have a preferred one, we have installed Cyberduck on the lab machines, available at
  • Poll Everywhere: During lectures, there will be peer instructions questions that will allow you to discuss course material with your neighbor(s) and then vote. The polling system we will use is Poll Everywhere, which is free to use for UW students and accesible with any Internet-enabled device. Optionally, you can download their mobile app here. The URL for all polls for the quarter will be:

Course Components

CS Principles has a wide variety of course components and they all contribute towards your overall success:

  1. Lectures: There will be 26 lectures. Attendance and participation is expected at all of them.
  1. Programming Assignments: There will be frequent programming assignments in Processing to give you practice with the various topics covered in the class. These will be split into "labs," which are completed in groups and checked off by the TAs, and "homework," which are completed individually and submitted and graded on Canvas. Once completed, you will add and maintain these in your online portfolio. Additionally, there will be two "Creativity" mini-projects done in partners.
  1. Reading and Writing Assignments: These will encourage you to reflect on course topics in a more personal manner and give you the opportunity to engage with current events and your fellow students. There will be short "reading checks" due in the 24 hours before your Thursday lab section. Written assignments will include a Living Computer Museum report and "Innovation Blog" post. This also includes providing feedback for the course.
  1. Exams: There will be a midterm and a final -- see Schedule for dates. These will be a mix of short questions on both programming concepts and the "big ideas of computing."
  1. Project: An open-ended project at the end of the course to give you a chance to show off everything you learned throughout the quarter! Can be done solo or with a partner. There is a small presentation and video component.


Grading Policies

Your grade in the class will be broken into the following components:

  • Effort, Participation, and Altruism: 5%
  • Programming Assignments and Portfolio: 40%
  • Written Assignments and Reading Quizzes: 15%
  • Exams (Midterm and Final): 20%
  • Final Project: 20%

EPA: Effort, Participation, and Altruism

You can earn "points" for each of the following:

  • Effort: Attending office hours, lectures, and sections. Keeping up with Piazza.
  • Participation: Asking questions in lecture and Piazza, voting on peer instruction questions, interacting with TAs and other students.
  • Altruism: Helping others in lecture, during office hours, and on Piazza.

EPA scores are kept internal to the staff (i.e. not disclosed to students).

Peer Instruction

You will receive credit for voting on peer instruction questions in lecture (your response does not need to be correct). This is designed to give you a chance to check your understanding of the material by applying it on-the-spot, as well as an opportunity to interact with your classmates. Over the course of the quarter, you are allowed to skip "a handful" of peer instruction questions with no penalty.

  1. Register your UWNetID on the . More information can be found from .
  1. Optionally, you may download the Poll Everywhere mobile app.
  1. Bring an Internet-enable device with you to lecture.

Assignment Policies

  • Reading Quizzes are available on Canvas in the 24 hours before your Thursday lab section. You are given just 20 minutes to submit, so make sure you have done the reading and are ready to answer questions before you open the quiz.
  • Lab assignments are expected to be started in lab section following an introductory presentation by the TAs. They are due by the end of the following lab section. You may get checked off by any staff member (TA or instructor) in lab or in office hours.
  • Homework and written assignments are submitted by uploading files to Canvas assignments. There are due at 11:59pm (and zero seconds) on the dates specified. This means that if your clock reads "11:59", then your assignment is late! In addition, online submission can be fickle, so we highly recommend making partial submissions as you go and not waiting until the last (literal) minute to submit.

Late Policy

Late work is not accepted except under special circumstances. If you need to turn in an assignment late due to special circumstances, please email the instructor to schedule a meeting in which to discuss and determine if extra time is needed.

Academic Conduct

All work in this class must be your own, unless otherwise specified (e.g. partner projects). All of it. DO NOT COPY! Computers make it trivial to copy digital information -- it's an important source of their power. Computers make it trivial to find copying. Penalties are high. Knowing violations of the principles of academic conduct, privacy, or copyright (outlined below) will result in University disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct.

Academic Integrity

The essence of academic life revolves around respect not only for the ideas of others, but also their rights to those ideas. 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 responsibility.


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, lifestyles, 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.

Disability Resources

The is a unit within the Division of Student Life and is dedicated to ensuring access and inclusion for all students with disabilities on the Seattle campus. They offer a wide range of services for students with disabilities that are individually designed and remove the need to reveal sensitive medical information to the course staff. If you have a medical need for extensions of exam times or assignment deadlines, these will only be granted through official documentation from DRS. Browse to to start the process as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Extenuating Circumstances and Inclusiveness

We recognize that our students come from varied backgrounds and can have widely-varying circumstances. If you have any unforeseen or extenuating circumstance that arise during the course, please do not hesitate to contact the instructor in office hours, via email, or private Piazza post to discuss your situation. The sooner we are made aware, the more easily these situations can be resolved. Extenuating circumstances include work-school balance, familial responsibilities, religious observations, military duties, unexpected travel, or anything else beyond your control that may negatively impact your performance in the class.

Additionally, if at any point you are made to feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or excluded by a staff member or fellow student, please report the incident so that we may address the issue and maintain a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Should you feel uncomfortable bringing up an issue with a staff member directly, you may consider sending or contacting the .