Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Computer Science Course Descriptions


          This page contains a description of each Computer Science course taught in the department. Descriptions are taken from the Colleges' 2008-2010 catalog. See also the course descriptions for Mathematics courses.


120 Principles of Computer Science

Designed to appeal to a diverse audience, this course examines some of the fundamental ideas of the science of computing. Lectures and hands-on assignments cover a wide variety of topics such as hardware organization, the Internet, computer programming, limits of computing, and graphics. No prerequisites. This course counts towards the major and minor in computer science but cannot be taken after completion of CPSC 124. (Offered every fall, every second spring)

124 Introduction to Programming

An introduction to the theory and practice of computer programming, the emphasis of this course is on techniques of program development within the object-oriented paradigm. Topics include control structures, objects, classes, inheritance, simple data structures, and basic concepts of software development. Currently, Java is the programming language used in the course. This course has a required lab component, and is required for the major and minor in computer science. (Offered every semester)

220 Introduction to Computer Architecture

A broad introduction to computer architecture, this course shows students how computers really work and how millions of transistors come together to form a complete computing system. Topics covered include transistors, logic gates, basic processor components, memory, input/output devices, and low-level machine instructions. This course has a required lab component, and is required for the major in computer science. Prerequisite: CPSC 124. (Offered annually)

225 Intermediate Programming

This course builds on CPSC 124, covering some of the more advanced fundamentals of programming including basic data structures (such as lists, stacks and queues, binary trees, and hash tables), recursion, common algorithms (such as searching and sorting), and generic programming. This course also looks more deeply at object-oriented programming, including the use of class hierarchies. Currently, the course is taught using the Java programming language. This course has a required lab component and is required for the major and minor in computer science. Prerequisite: CPSC 124. (Offered annually)

226 Embedded Computing

Small, inexpensive, powerful, and pervasive computers have fostered a revolution in our daily lives. This course makes this revolution tangible through basic electronics theory, building electronic circuits, implementing logic gates and combinatorial circuits, and ultimately designing systems employing microprocessors and peripherals. Practical projects are emphasized, such as designing, building, and programming a microprocessor-controlled mobile robot. Prerequisites: CPSC 225 or permission of the instructor. (Offered alternate years)

229 Fundamentals of Computation

This course introduces students to some of the mathematical and theoretical foundations of computer science, and to their practical applications to computing. Topics include propositional and predicate logic, sets and functions, formal languages, finite automata, regular expressions, grammars, and Turing machines. CPSC 229 is a required course for the major in computer science. Prerequisite: CPSC 124. (Offered annually)

271 Topics in Computer Science

Each time this course is offered, it addresses a topic in computer science that is not covered as a regular course. The topic is covered at a level that is appropriate for any student who has successfully completed an introductory programming course. Possible topics include web programming, human-computer interaction, and Linux system and server administration. This course may be repeated for credit by permission of the department. Prerequisite: CPSC 124 or permission of the instructor. (Offered alternate years)

327 Data Structures and Algorithms

This course continues the study of data structures and algorithms, focusing on algorithm design and analysis and the relationships between data representation, algorithm design, and program efficiency. Topics include advanced data structures, key algorithm design techniques, analysis of the time and space requirements of algorithms, and characterizing the difficulty of solving a problem. Concrete examples will be drawn from a variety of domains, such as algorithms for graphs and networks, cryptography, data compression, strings, geometric problems, indexing and search, numerical problems, and parallel computation. This course is required for the major in computer science. Prerequisites: CPSC 225; CPSC 229 is recommended. (Offered annually)

329 Software Development

This course continues the study of programming by focusing on software design, development, and verification - the skills beyond fluency in a particular language which are necessary for developing large, reliable programs. Topics include object-oriented design, the use of APIs, and testing and verification. Techniques common in modern software development will also be studied. Specific techniques may include GUIs and event-driven programming, multi-threading, client-server networking, fault-tolerant computing, stream programming, and security. This course is required for the major in computer science. It includes a required lab component. Prerequisite: CPSC 225. (Offered annually)

336 Robotics

An advanced study of the electronics, mechanics, sensors, and programming of robots. Emphasis is placed on programming robots which investigate, analyze, and interact with the environment. Topics may include mobile robots, legged robots, computer vision, and various approaches to robot intelligence. Prerequisite: CPSC 226 or permission of the instructor. (Offered alternate years)

343 Database Theory and Practice

Computer databases are used to store, organize, and retrieve large collections of information. This course introduces the theory and practice of relational databases and relational database management systems (RDBMS). Topics include data modeling and database design, the relational algebra and relational calculus, SQL, and elements of RDBMS implementation such as file structure and data storage, indexing, and query evaluation. Additional topics may include Web-based access to databases, transaction management, reliability, security, and object-oriented databases. Prerequisites: CPSC 225 and CPSC 229. (Offered alternate years)

371 Advanced Topics in Computer Science

Each time this course is offered, it addresses a topic in computer science that is not covered as a regular course. CPSC 371 addresses topics at a more advanced level than CPSC 271. Possible topics include combinatorics, functional and logic programming, and data visualization and data mining. This course may be repeated for credit by permission of the department. Prerequisites: CPSC 225 and permission of the instructor. (Offered occasionally)

424 Fundamentals of Computer Graphics

This course studies the principles underlying the generation and display of 3D computer graphics. Topics include geometric modeling, 3D viewing and projection, lighting and shading, color, and the use of one or more technologies and packages such as X3D, OpenGL, and Blender. Advanced topics might include ray tracing, radiosity, texture- and bump-mapping, the mathematics of curves and surfaces, volumetric rendering, and animation. This course includes a required lab component. Prerequisite: CPSC 327 or CPSC 329. (Offered alternate years)

431 Operating Systems

An operating system such as Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X is a fundamental part of any computing system. It is responsible for managing all the running processes as well as allowing the processes to safely share system resources such as the hard drive and network. This course is a general introduction to the design and implementation of modern operating systems. The subjects to be covered include historical development of operating systems, concurrency, synchronization, scheduling, paging, virtual memory, input/output devices, files, and security. Prerequisite: CPSC 225. (Offered alternate years)

433 Compilers

This course explores the implementation of modern programming languages by looking at compiler design and construction. The course focuses mainly on object-oriented programming languages, although it will also look briefly at compiling for languages from other programming paradigms. Major topics in compilation are covered, including scanning, parsing, semantic analysis, and code-generation. Time permitting, the course will also cover some advanced topics, including garbage collection and optimization. This course has a required lab component. Prerequisites: CPSC 225 and CPSC 229. (Offered alternate years)

441 Networking

One of the most important recent developments in computing is the explosive growth in the use of computer networks, which allow computers to communicate and work together. This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of computer networks, the software protocols that allow them to operate, and the applications that make use of them. Topics covered include direct-link networks, packet switching, internetworking, end-to-end protocols, network applications, and network security. Prerequisite: CPSC 225. (Offered occasionally)

444 Artificial Intelligence

This course serves as an introduction to some of the major problems and techniques in the field of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence generally deals with problems that are too large, complex, or poorly-specified to have exact algorithmic solutions. Topics to be covered might include knowledge representation, natural language processing, machine learning, neural nets, case-based reasoning, intelligent agents, and artificial life. Prerequisite: CPSC 327 or 329. (Offered occasionally)

450 Independent Study

495 Honors

499 Computer Science Internship