Core at Mudd: CS 5

Overview

The Core Curriculum takes up most of a Mudder’s first three semesters. It’s intended to give all of us a base of knowledge across the different scientific fields, as well as the humanities. As a frosh (freshman) all but one of my classes are Core. And while I have enjoyed all of my classes this semester, I think there is one that has stood out. Introduction to Computer Science, commonly called CS 5, has been far and above my favorite class. I think it is important to begin by clarifying that I had absolutely no experience in computer science at all before Mudd, and frequently broke computers by being in close proximity to them. Despite that, CS 5 has been amazing.
As a general overview, in CS 5 we work mostly with the basics of Python. Other topics involve assembly language, circuits, HTML, javascript, CSS, and several languages created for the class. The goal is that we get an idea of how computer science as a whole works, from the most basic level to a high level language. While I could write a lot about everything that I have enjoyed, I thought it might be helpful to provide a wider perspective so I asked a few other frosh what their favorite part of CS 5 has been so far.

Interviews

Jessica Santosa

Jessica’s favorite part was learning to draw circuits. She adds:
“My favorite part of CS5 is how the things we learn (in this case binary) are connected to something more tangible (like circuits) instead of remaining abstract. In this way, we can apply them to most of the other majors and all of us can benefit from taking this class even though we may not become a CS major in the future.”

Hannah Betts

“These are pictures from my favorite part of CS5: Making an AI that can sometimes beat me in connect 4.”

Two diagrams of a Connect Four board represented with X and O, where O has won with the text "I win! Play again?"

The AI (playing as O) beats Hannah. Photo Credit: Hannah Betts

Two diagrams of a Connect Four board where X has won, with the text "You win...Rematch?"

Hannah (playing as X) beats her AI. Photo Credit: Hannah Betts

 Cindy Wang

Connect 4 was popular:
“I don’t have a picture but my favorite moment was when I had trouble figuring out whether I should feel smart or stupid after I lost to the Connect Four program I wrote.”

Inci Anali

“My favourite thing about CS 5 has been how accessible Prof Dodds is! I could just email him questions I had, and he would answer them! (Although there is a lot of people in CS 5!) He is also very nice and encouraging! Now, my favourite project that we did is probably the text adventure! I knew about these text games, but I didn’t know how they would do it, so it was fascinating for me to learn and make my own. I did one about finding a table tennis partner in HMC and had a ton of fun!”

adventure() Who dares enter the lair of the dragon? Malia Well, Malia I hope you are prepared for tricks, traps... and perhaps some treasure should you venture far enough! The entrance of the cave is dark. Faintly, you see light ahead. You consider. The light may be treasure, glinting ahead. Or it could be a trap. Do you follow the light? no A wise choice, and one that demonstrates your great knowledge. As you walk, you gradually become aware of a sound. It is everywhere in the walls. Soon it becomes too much and you wish to go back. You turn around, but can no longer see anything. Do you continue straight? Or turn back? continue straight Walk carefully. The way is long and dangerous. Eventually, there is a general lightening in the air. Faint light indicates that you have entered a large chamber. Here, you must stop for a moment. As you do, your eyes adjust and you see four tunnels lead away. The first continues straight, and looks much the same as the tunnel you just exited. The second makes a sharp right turn and appears to go down--perhaps torward treasure? The third is made out of stairs leading up, and is the source of the light. No more walking in the dark if you head that way. The fourth is by far the largest and heads off to the left. It looks large enough for a dragon. You also consider resting here for longer. Surely it couldn't hurt? What tunnel do you choose? the third Fool. Dragons can't use stairs.

An example of the assignment Inci is describing.

Anya Porter

Anya’s favorite part was modelling the behavior of ants and where they will go. She describes the  pictures of it:

“The nice one is the ant class we made when it only follows one ant, and there’s only 4 ants. The ugly one they change which ant they are going towards each time. Colors are always random.”

Many differently colored paths radiating from the center with no clear pattern.

The “ugly” version. Photo Credit: Anya Porter

Four differently colored spirals radiating from the middle.

The “nice” version. Photo Credit: Anya Porter

I’m going to end with what has been my favorite part of CS 5 so far: using recursion to draw creative shapes!

A blue geometric flower.

My attempt at creating a flower.

Four trees with bright multicolored leaves.

My fall trees.

Blank and white overlapping geometric circles.

My geometric circles–probably my favorite one!

We learned how to use an online program, called Turtle, to program python code that would draw. These shapes are made out of a few lines of code that repeat through recursion. I really loved it.

That and learning to program my own AI.