Last Updated: 2014-06-03 Tue 08:56

CS 222: Computer Programming for Engineers

George Mason University
Summer 2014
3 Credits

1 Basic Course Information

C or better in CS 112.
Course Meeting Time and Location
Lecture T/R 1:30 - 4:10 pm, 6/3/2014-7/22/2014
Location Innovation 136
Web GMU Blackboard:

In addition to attending the regular meeting times, you are strongly encouraged to visit the professor and teaching assistant(s) during office hours to further your understanding of the material: we are here to help you learn.

Name Chris Kauffman
Office Hours Mon 4:30-5:30pm
  Tue 12:00pm-1:00pm
  By appointment
Office Engineering 5341
Phone 703-993-5194
Preetham Vemasani ( Contact Preetham first about HW grading disputes but NOT about other course matters.
Required Text
Zyante Online Textbook. Instructions on how to log in and subscribe to use the textbook will be posted on the course blackboard page prior to the fist day of class. The textbook contains content on C and required exercises for course credit.
Optional Text
Hanley and Koffman, Problem Solving and Program Design in C, 7th Edition. Previous offerings of CS 222 used Hanley/Koffman and if you want a second reference, it is a reasonable option.
It is assumed you will have access to a computer with the ability to edit, compile, and run C programs. Some university labs provide this ability and the first week of the course will cover how to set up your personal environment. If you have difficulty accessing a suitable environment, contact the course staff.

2 Course Description and Goals

Modern engineering is almost always done using computers either as an aid or a primary modeling tool. To that end, it is essential for engineers to have a cursory understanding of how to exploit computation to meet their objectives. This course will discuss fundamental aspects of programming in the C language. The C language is designed to be close to the hardware on which it runs giving a programmer full control over the machine. This is in contrast to higher level languages such as Python and Java which insulate the programmer from hardware. Programs in C have very direct access to the underlying architecture of the execution device making C ideal for applications in which careful control of the device is required. This is particularly relevant for engineers working with computing hardware or other electronics.

Students in the course are assumed to have prior programming experience (see prerequisites) so that basic programming concepts such as variables, loops, conditionals, functions, and aggregate data are familiar. We will cover how these elements are expressed in C and how they are assembled to construct programs. We will also cover the set of tools which support C programs including compilers, preprocessors, standard libraries, and potentially debuggers. Near the end of the course, we will spend a short amount of time discussing the C++ language which extends C to include some high-level programming constructs.

3 Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, a passing student will be able to carry out the following types of activities:

  • Be able to implement, test and debug a designed solution to a problem in a ``low-level'' programming language, specifically the C programming language
  • Demonstrate a good understanding of C language constructs such as pointers, dynamic memory management, and address arithmetic
  • Demonstrate a good understanding of C libraries for input and output, and the interface between C programs and the UNIX operating system.
  • Demonstrate an ability to use UNIX tools for program development and debugging
  • Understand and be able to implement dynamic data structures
  • Understand basic object-oriented principles as enabled by C++

4 Coursework

4.1 Lectures

Each lecture will be divided in half: 1 hour and 15 minutes of lecture and discussion followed by a 15 break and then another 1 hour and 15 minutes of lecture. We will discuss programming concepts and I will provide demos of programming relevant to assignments. In addition to attending the regular meeting times, you are strongly encouraged to visit the professor and teaching assistant(s) during office hours to further your understanding of the material: we are here to help you learn.

Attendance of lectures is expected but not mandatory. Lectures are meant to assist students in learning the material and meet expectations on homework and exams. However, no formal attendance will be kept. When attending lecture and discussion, students are expected to arrive on time, avoid disruptions to presentations and discussion, and be respectful to the instructor and fellow learners. During lecture, new material will be introduced and discussed. Also, example problems will be solved which have the same character as those on homework. Participating in lectures are also the source of bonus credit. If you experience difficulty in lecture either understanding or with the conduct of other students, see the instructor during office hours or make an appointment.

4.2 Reading

Readings from the textbook relevant to each lecture are listed in the schedule. You will increase your understanding of lectures by reading associated textbook sections ahead of time, though this is not assumed. I may provide additional reading material to supplement the textbook which will be posted on the course web page.

The textbook has a series of online exercises. Doing these exercises is required and comprises a small portion of the overall grade.

4.3 Homework: Programming Assignments

There will be a number of programming assignments during the semester. Each assignment will involve writing programs and answering questions about them to illustrate an understanding of course material. The programming assignments will be electronically submitted to Blackboard on dates specified in the assignment by 11:59 p.m. Students may submit assignments as many times as needed up to the deadline.

4.4 Exams

There will be a series of hour-exams during the semester and a mandatory final exam.

All exams will be open book, open notes, open computing devices but no network access will be allowed. Exam questions will be designed such that learning a concept on the fly will take too long. Do not let the availability of resources fool you into preparing for exams inadequately.

5 Grading and Evaluation

Performance will be evaluated using programming assignments, hour exams, and the final exam. Grading of assignments will be done by the graduate teaching assistant. Grading of exams will be done by the lecturer. Failure to complete an assignment or take an exam will result in loss of credit for that element of the course.

5.1 Grading Disputes

Grading disputes on assignments should first be addressed to the grader either via e-mail. Only if you are unable to resolve the issue, should bring it to the instructor. Grading disputes on exams may be taken up with the instructor.

If you have not raised a dispute within 1 week of receiving a grade, the chance to contest it has closed.

5.2 Final Grades

Computation of the final grade will be done according the following weights on graded materials.

Component Weight
6 Programming Assignments 42%
Zyante Online Exercises 3%
2 In Class Exams 30%
1 Comprehensive Final Exam 25%

Grades for each assignment and exam will be input into Blackboard and may be viewed by students as the course progresses.

Final grades will be assigned without rounding according to the following criteria.

Percent Grade Percent Grade Percent Grade Percent Grade
>= 98 A+ 89-88 B+ 79-78 C+ 69-60 D
97-92 A 87-82 B 77-72 C <60 F
91-90 A- 81-80 B- 71-70 C-    

5.3 Bonus Credit

Bonus credit will be awarded based on participation in class discussions in lecture. Students may elect to sit in the first 2 rows of the room ("hot seats") and answer questions. Reasonable effort on answering questions in class will garner class participation credit. Participation points may also earned for involvement in the class discussion board such as giving suggestions to students with questions (but not revealing answers wholesale). The highest point winner at the end of the semester will receive a 3% bonus to their overall score in the course. All other students will receive a bonus proportional to the highest point winner. For example, someone tied with the highest point scorer will also receive a 3% bonus while someone with half the participation points will receive a 1.5% bonus.

5.4 Homework Deadlines and Day-Late Tokens

  • Homework is due via electronic submission by 11:59 p.m. on the dates specified. You can submit work to BlackBoard as many times as desired. Only the last submission will be graded.
  • Each student starts the semester with three Day-Late Tokens. Whenever a student turns in a project late, tokens are automatically applied to the assignment. Late tokens prevent the below late penalties from taking effect.
  • At the end of the semester, each unused Day-Late Token is worth 0.25% in overall bonus credit for the course.
  • Late work will be penalized by the min-25 system
  • A penalty of 25% is assessed each 24-hour period entered after the deadline (when late-tokens are gone). For example, if you turn in work half a day late and score 87%, you will receive min(87,75) = 75% (and not 87-25=62%).
  • Work turned in more than three 24-hours periods late will earn zero points and will only be graded as time permits. To clarify, you can't use tokens and penalties to turn work in 4 days late; this would earn zero points.
  • You can submit work to BlackBoard as many times as desired. Only the last submission will be graded. If you anticipate being rushed around the submission deadline, be sure to submit a version before the deadline as a backup, in case you find yourself only moments late in meeting a deadline.
  • The graduate grader grades the programming HW and should be contacted first about disputes
  • On-time submissions will generally be graded and available a week from submission, though exceptional circumstances may cause delays. Late submissions will be graded in as timely a fashion as schedules allow.
  • Contact the professor as soon as possible if health or family emergencies occur that would interfere with completing course work.

5.5 Exams Policies

  • Your Mason ID is required for the midterm and final exams.
  • Missing an exam results in a zero score and make-up exams will be considered only in situations involving death and near death. Proof of such circumstances will be required for a make-up to be considered.
  • Failing the final exam will result in an F in the entire course. Failing is defined as receiving less than 50% of the available points on the exam.

6 Programming Policies

Since this is a programming course, some special policies will be in effect.

  • Programming projects will be submitted to Blackboard at the specified dates. You may submit assignments to Blackboard as many times as you like: only the most recent submission will be graded (up to the deadline).
  • Back up your program regularly. This is usually as simple as making a copy of the project folder. Submitting occasional early versions to Blackboard is also extremely helpful. Should last-minute problems happen such as accidental deletion, you will at least have some of your work to show. No code to submit means no credit.
  • Submitted code that does not compile will receive little to no credit.
  • When test cases are provided by the instructor use them and make sure your code passes all tests.
  • Familiarize yourself with how plagiarism works with programming in the next section of the syllabus.
  • Keep an untouched copy of your final code submission. It is important that you not touch your programs once you have made your final submission. If there are any submission problems, consideration for credit will only be given if it can be verified that the programs were not changed after being submitted.
  • You may develop programs using any computer system available. However, submitted projects must run under the gcc compiler available on either Zeus or Mason. No extensions will be given due to compiler incompatibilities.

7 Academic Honesty and Collaboration


PRIME DIRECTIVE: Be able to explain your own work including homework code and exam solutions.

Nearly all cheating in programming can be averted by adhering to the 7.1. Students may be asked at any time to explain code or exam solutions they submit. Inability to do so will be construed as evidence of misconduct. More specific guidelines are given below.

7.2 Thou Shalt Not

For the purposes of this course, the following actions constitute scholastic misconduct (cheating):

  • Directly copying someone else's solution to a homework problem, including student solutions from a previous semester
  • Directly copying an answer from some outside source such as the Internet or friend for a homework problem
  • Making use of an Instructor Solution manual to complete homework problems
  • Paying someone for a homework solution or submitting someone else's work as your own
  • Posting solutions to any web site including our course web site
  • Collaborating or copying someone else's answer during an exam
  • Aiding or abetting any of the above
  • Witnessing any of the above and failing to report it the instructor immediately

Refer to the following links for additional information.

7.3 Penalties

Any instance of misconduct that is detected will be referred to the honor board and will likely result in failing the course. Be advised that the teaching team will be employing electronic means to detect plagiarism. This is extremely easy with computer code so keep your nose clean.

7.4 Fair Collaboration

The purpose of this course is to learn about programming and learning from one another is a great help. To that end, the following actions will NOT be considered cheating in this course.

  • Talking to other students in the course about HW problems and informally describing how a problem may be solved.
    • Be very careful as you do this that you do not share any sort of code as this will be detected.
  • Getting or giving help fixing a small bug or two: a second set of eyes is a great boon to finding that misplaced semicolon that is preventing your code from compiling.
  • Searching the Internet for alternative presentations of a programming concept.
  • When unsure whether collaboration is fair or not, stop the activity until it can be cleared with instructor.

At all times keep the 7.1 in mind when studying with another student. The above collaborations should be limited to getting someone over a hurdle, not carrying them across the finish line.

About half your grade will depend on programming projects. Doing them individually prepares you for the exams in which no collaboration of any kind is allowed.

8 Additional Policies

Students are expected to maintain a high level of civility for all participants in and out of class meetings. This includes respecting the beliefs of participants of all genders, ethnicities, and social backgrounds. Harassment of any type will not be tolerated and failure to behave in a respectful manner will result in referrals to University Counseling or the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. Any instances of sexual harassment will be reported to the Office of Equal Opportunity according the following policy:

Observance of religious events will be accommodated for students of any faith.

All possible accommodations will be made for students with disabilities. Please contact Disability Services ( and the instructor for further information.

9 Guidelines for Success

  • Most homework problems have analogs that are (1) discussed in lecture or (2) described in an example problem in the textbook. This should encourage you to
    • Attend lecture and take notes
    • Read the content of each section of the textbook carefully
    • Analyze the example code distributed by the instructor
  • Seek help from the instructor or teaching assistant when a concept is unclear. If you blow a problem on a HW or exam and don't see why, attend office hours to ask about it. We are here to aid your learning process.
  • Form good habits early on. This is a summer class so we will go at twice the speed of a regular semester. To help you absorb that much information, it will be very useful to read some of the material ahead of time. Things will move fast so don't fall behind.
  • C Programming has been around for a long time and there is a wealth of information on it online. Don't be afraid to consult online tutorials if a particular aspect of C programming is troublesome for you. However, do not misuse to the Internet to obtain solutions that you don't understand. Follow the 7.1 at all times.
  • In addition to online resources, the library has a number of alternative textbooks on C programming. Explore the stacks and find something that works for you.

Author: Chris Kauffman (
Date: 2014-06-03 Tue 08:56