COMP 151: Intro to Programming, Fall 2021

This syllabus is subject to change based on specific class needs, especially the schedule. Significant deviations will be discussed in class. Individual exceptions to the policies and schedule are granted only in cases of true emergency. Please make arrangements with me if an emergency arises.

On November 1, 2021, I will start paternity leave. After this date, Marta Tucker will take over my classes, including this one. She will deviate from this syllabus as necessary.




Introduction to Programming teaches basic programming skills that are applicable to a variety of disciplines and also acts as a bridge to continued studies in computer science. Students will work with the Python programming language in order to solve basic problems. By the end of the course students will be able to read and develop computer programs utilizing the following programming concepts: basic data types and encoding, variables and scope, array and list data structures, if statements and conditional execution, loops and iteration, functions, and object types.


  1. Learn what computer science is
  2. Get excited about programming
  3. Develop problem-solving skills
  4. Widen your view about the disciplines computer science is important to
  5. Learn the basics of the Python programming language
  6. Express solutions to problems in the form of a program


Our textbook is Foundations of Python Programming. It is completely online and free, although I highly suggest making a small donation if you can afford it – providing the interactive exercises requires money to host the servers that run the code!


There are several apps/accounts we will be using for this course.

  1. An account at Runestone Academy. Your account will be automatically created and you will be emailed your account information at the start of the semester.

  2. During class I will often ask interactive questions using the Socrative app. Students will need to create a free student account at While you can participate in Socrative sessions via a web browser, I recommend using the free iOS or Android apps available here.

  3. Though most assignments will use the interactive textbook, I might give some assignments/projects via Replit, an online development service. Students will receive, complete, and submit assignments all via the website. If/when Replit is used, you will receive instructions on how to create an account and join our course.


Assignments and Workload

The weekly workload for this course will vary by student and by week but should be about 12.5 hours per week on average. The following table provides a rough estimate of the distribution of time over different course components for a 16 week semester, as well as detailing the type, amount, and relative value of all assignments.

Category Amount Final Grade Weight Time/Week (Hours)
Lectures ~41 10% (Participation) 2.5
Labs 8–10 10% 3
Homework 8 10% 1
Exam Study - - 1
Exams 4–5 30% -
Projects 2 30% 3
Reading Assignments/Practice - 10% 2
Total     12.5

Reading Assignments: Before most classes there will be an assigned reading in the interactive textbook. Your progress on these is automatically recorded and visible to me. These are graded on a pass/fail basis: you either put in a reasonable amount of effort or you didn’t.

Practice: In addition to the reading assignments, each week you have review practice questions to complete. These can be found by clicking 👤 > Practice on Runestone. Each week you must complete the questions on at least 3 days.

Exams: All exams are weighted equally and will take approximately the same amount of time. Exams will generally focus on material covered since the previous exam but will be in some sense cumulative due to the nature of programming. Unless stated otherwise, assume that exams will be pencil and paper and that computers will not be available during the exam period.

Projects: Two larger scale programming projects will be undertaken during the semester. These projects will be individual efforts and will require much more effort than the programs written in lab or as part of homework. Students can expect to have two weeks from the time of the project assignment to complete the project. One or more lab periods will be dedicated to work on the project. It is highly recommend that all students make ample use of the time given on these projects.

Labs: Most weeks will include an in-class lab assignment. Students will often be placed into pairs for “paired programming”, a programming practice where each member of the group takes turns typing while the other group member helps look for typos, bugs, and otherwise assists in the design of the code. Each group will submit their work at the end of the lab period regardless of the overall completeness of the assignment. The goal is to make good constructive progress on the assignment. Full credit can and will be given on unfinished work so long as it can be executed to complete some portion of the given task, shows evidence of purposeful progress, and the group made full use of the lab period.

Homework: Students will be assigned a set of homework problems, usually from the current chapter of the book. These problems are meant to guide reading, prepare the student for in-class problems, and survey the material covered by the exam. Each student will turn in their own set of solutions.


Your final grade is based on a weighted average of particular assignment categories. You can estimate your current grade based on your scores and these weights. You may always visit the instructor outside of class to discuss your current standing. Assignments and final grades use a standard grading scale shown below and will not be curved except in rare cases when deemed necessary by the instructor.

This courses uses a standard grading scale. Assignments and final grades will not be curved except in rare cases when its deemed necessary by the instructor. Percentage grades translate to letter grades as follows:

Score Grade
94–100 A
90–93 A-
88–89 B+
82–87 B
80–81 B-
78–79 C+
72–77 C
70–71 C-
68–69 D+
62–67 D
60–61 D-
0–59 F

You are always welcome to challenge a grade that you feel is unfair or calculated incorrectly. Mistakes made in your favor will never be corrected to lower your grade. Mistakes made not in your favor will be corrected. Basically, after the initial grading your score can only go up as the result of a challenge*.

You are always welcome to challenge a grade that you feel is unfair or calculated incorrectly. Mistakes made in your favor will never be corrected to lower your grade. Mistakes made not in your favor will be corrected. Basically, after the initial grading your score can only go up as the result of a challenge.

Lab and homework assignments are graded on a simple 3 point scale, marked with (in decreasing order) a check-plus, check, or check minus. Your final grade for these two assignment categories is then based on the respective averages.

Your participation grade is based on a variety of activities, but especially daily use of Socrative for in-class question and answer sessions. Questions will cover portions of the text that were assigned as reading and will range from simple checks to see if the reading was done to more challenging questions that follow from a close examination of the reading. For the most part, the only requirement is to provide an answer to every question and participate in the resultant discussions. On occasion, questions will be evaluated for their correctness and performance on 3 these questions will also factor into the course participation grade. Students who do the reading and start the homework as soon as possible will have very little to worry about.

While there is no strict attendance policy, the course participation grade is based in large part on engagement with socrative. Absent students cannot participate in socrative sessions. Students should avoid unexcused absences, as defined in the college-wide absence policy. Whenever possible, let the instructor know of the absence before it occurs. When unexcused absences do occur, it is the student’s responsibility to make up for the lost class time and to seek the permission of the instructor to hand-in or complete assignments that are late due to an unexcused absence.

This course is designed around the assumption that students engage in new ideas before they’re covered in class meetings. This means doing assigned reading, taking a stab at homework problems, and as a result coming to class and lab with some understand about a new idea or, just as likely, with a host of questions about something encountered in the reading and homework. Not attending class, skipping lab, and putting off work to the point that an extension is needed are signs that a student isn’t holding up their end of the bargain and is not prepared to participate in class.



The following tentative calendar should give you a feel for how work is distributed throughout the semester. Assignments and events are listed in the week they are due or when they occur. This calendar is subject to change based on the circumstances of the course.

Note: All readings should be done before the class period in which they are listed below.

Date Class Activity Reading Assignment
(Mon 08/23) (Week 1) (Freshman Orientation – No COMP151)  
Wed 08/25 Intro and Logistics  
Fri 08/27 Misc. Exercises FOPP 1: General Introduction
Mon 08/30 (Week 2) Operating, Unfolding Exercises FOPP 2.1-2.9: Types, Variables
Mon 08/30 LAB 1 A Preview of the End Goal Homework 1
Wed 09/01 String and Type Exercises FOPP 2.10-2.16: Statements, Expressions, Tracing
Fri 09/03 Debugging Exercises FOPP 3.1-3.8: Debugging
Mon 09/06 (Week 3) Modules; Intro to Turtle FOPP 4.1-4.4: Python Modules
Mon 09/06 LAB 2 Input-Compute-Output Homework 2
Wed 09/08 Turtle, OO, and for loops FOPP 5: Python Turtle
Fri 09/10 More Turtle Exercises  
Mon 09/13 (Week 4)   FOPP 6.1-6.5: Sequences
Mon 09/13 LAB 3 Generating a Password (No homework – study for exam)
Wed 09/15 Exam Review  
Fri 09/17 Exam 1 (chapter 1-5)  
Mon 09/20 (Week 5) Exam 1 Solutions  
Mon 09/20 LAB 4 Random Turtle Circles Homework 3
Wed 09/22 Sequence Methods FOPP 6.6-6.9
Fri 09/24 More About For Loops FOPP 7.1-7.7: Iteration
Mon 09/27 (Week 6) Functions I FOPP 8.1 (Conditionals) AND 12.1-12.5 (Functions)
Mon 09/27 LAB 5 Computing Statistics with Kiva Data Project 1: Graphing Kiva Data with the Turtle
Wed 09/29 Conditionals I FOPP 8.2-8.7: Conditionals
Fri 10/01 Conditionals II FOPP 8.8-8.11: More Conditionals
Mon 10/04 (Week 7) Functions II FOPP 12.6-12.15: More Functions
Mon 10/04 LAB (Reserved for Project 1)  
Wed 10/06 Review for Exam 2  
Fri 10/08 Exam 2  
Mon 10/11 (Week 8) Exam 2 Solutions  
Mon 10/11 LAB (Reserved for Project 1)  
(Wed 10/13) (Exam day for half-semester courses)  
(Fri 10/15) (Fall Break)  
Mon 10/18 (Week 9) Review; Transforming Sequences  
Mon 10/18 LAB Project 1 Homework 4
Wed 10/20 Transforming Sequences FOPP 9.1-9.7: Transforming Sequences
Fri 10/22 Sequences; Nested Iteration FOPP 9.8-9.14: Sequence Accumulator Patterns
Mon 10/25 (Week 10) Homework Presentations  
Mon 10/25 LAB 6 Substitution Ciphers  
Wed 10/27 Nested Iteration FOPP 7.8-7.13: Nested Iteration
Fri 10/29 (Exam 3 – take-home)  
Mon 11/01 (Week 11) (Dr. Utterback parental leave starts)  
Mon 11/01 LAB    
Wed 11/03   FOPP 14: More About Iteration
Fri 11/05    
Mon 11/08 (Week 12)   FOPP 10: Files
Mon 11/08 LAB    
Wed 11/10   FOPP 11: Dictionaries
Fri 11/12    
Mon 11/15 (Week 13)    
Mon 11/15 LAB    
Wed 11/17    
Fri 11/19 Exam 4  
Mon 11/22 (Week 14)    
Mon 11/22 LAB    
(Wed 11/24) (Thanksgiving Break)  
(Fri 11/26) (Thanksgiving Break)  
Mon 11/29 (Week 15)   FOPP 18: Testing
Mon 11/29 LAB    
Wed 12/01    
Fri 12/03    
Mon 12/06 (Week 16)   FOPP 21: Building Programs
Mon 12/06 LAB    
Wed 12/08    
Wed 12/15 8:00 AM Exam 5 (Final)  

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