Dr. Grissom with his students during CIS162 class session.

Dr. Grissom with his students during CIS162 class session.

Critters dying, illegal gambling and wild adventures in faraway lands are some of what happens in CIS 162. This course introduces the challenge and creativity of computer programming. Professor Scott Grissom, course coordinator, explains “our goal is to assign a series of programming assignments that introduce basic skills but also provide an opportunity for students to be creative.”

For the first assignment, students write Java code to display a personal business card with their picture, a logo and a clever tagline describing their fictional business. Assignments become more complex through the term including dice games such as craps and Yahtzee. Assignments involving large data sets such as Yellowstone geyser eruption times, movie titles or credit card information for thousands of customers demonstrate the power of computers to process information quickly.

The final assignment includes multiple objects interacting with each other. Two popular options have been a text-based adventure game and a 2D simulation of animal species (i.e. critters) moving and interacting with each other. Instructor Ana Posada says one of her favorite student comments about this critter simulation project, “My critters are dying as expected but they are not removed from the simulation as expected. Instead, the dead bodies keep piling up. It is quite gruesome!”

Another source of motivation within the course is creating programs with graphic user interfaces. These programs look and behave like programs students use everyday but are much more fun to show to friends and family. Different color schemes and physical layout allow students to create their own look and feel.

Students also learn the importance of working with each other during class. For example, pair programming is practiced during the 2-hour computer lab. Two students work side-by-side at one computer to solve small programming problems. They take turns controlling the keyboard and observing. This is effective because education studies reveal students learn more and stay engaged longer compared to working alone. This practice is often used in industry as well so students get a flavor of what to expect in their future careers.