Computer Science courses to feature app-building

Students in this year’s new introductory computer science courses will be getting down to business in more ways than one.

Over the summer, computer science professor Daniel Abadi developed the revamped Computer Science 112, “Introduction to Programming.” It will be open to students with little or no programming experience and will teach the same programming fundamentals as in past years — but now through building an Android app. In the spring, the new Computer Science 113, which Abadi plans to co-teach with School of Management professor Kyle Jensen, will continue programming instruction while teaching students to market and promote their app.

“It’s a chance for Yale students to create the next Twitch, in the classroom, for credit, while learning sound theory,” Jensen wrote in a Sunday email. Twitch, the video game streaming website created by Emmett Shear ’05 and Justin Kan ’05, was purchased by Amazon for $1.1 billion on Monday.

The courses were developed partially in response to student interest in programming initiatives like Y-Hack and Hack Yale, Abadi said. Computer Science 112 and Computer Science 113 were recently approved by newly appointed computer science chair Joan Feigenbaum and director of undergraduate studies Jim Aspnes, but not in time for the Blue Book’s printing.

Abadi said he hopes the courses will be comparable to Harvard’s Computer Science 50, the hugely popular introductory computer science course, but with its own twist: Yale’s will take two semesters instead of one. The second half of the course will emphasize entrepreneurship and technical skills in equal part.

Like the curriculum, the grading system will mirror the real world. Group projects will be assigned stocks, which can fluctuate in value through trading with other groups. Abadi plans for a portion of students’ final grades to be determined by how much their projects’ stocks are worth. He will also factor in comments from venture capitalists, who will evaluate students’ projects — and potentially award prizes for the best ideas — in the spring.

Charles Jin ’16, a co-founder of Y-Hack, called the changes a “step in the right direction,” but not enough to fully satisfy students seeking classes with a more practical bent.

Aspnes said the courses are not a significant departure from the department’s academic focus, just an “evolution” of the curriculum that existed before.

Computer Science 113, split between programming and entrepreneurship, is where the department is exploring new directions, Aspnes added.

Computer Science 113 can be taken without taking Computer Science 112. Students also have the option of forgoing the new “Introduction to Programing” for the original Computer Science 112, which will be offered in the spring.

No additional computer science classes with an entrepreneurial slant are planned for now, Aspnes said. While there are no changes for this year in how the department plans to manage higher enrollments in its introductory courses like those posted last year, the subject is presently under discussion.

The crowds at Hack Yale and Y-Hack are testament to campus-wide clamor for training in app design and marketing, but Abadi said it remains to be seen if Computer Science 112 and 113 will have similar success.

“It’s just one class, but it has potential,” he said.

From 2010 to 2013, the average number of computer science majors was 25; from 2006 to 2009, the average was about 14.

Correction: Aug. 28, 2014

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CPSC 112 was a requirement for the computer science major.

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