Saul Greenberg

back to CPSC 581

CPSC 581: Information for Prospective Students

Do you really want to take 581?

CPSC 581 is an unconventional course, because it is set up, as much as possible, as a 'design studio'. As such, it makes unusual demands upon students. What this really means is that you should take 581 only if you are keen on it.

  • Longer than usual class times. The class time and the labs are merged together into a single class time of about 2 1/4 hours twice a week. Classes are 'compulsory' in the sense that if you don't go to classes, I will likely ask you to drop out.
  • Mixed class and lab content. The class will vary between traditional lectures, lab-type lectures where you are learning about technologies and trying them at the same time, demonstrations that you give to others, and coding time.
  • Active participation through demonstrations and critiques. Assignments are in stages. You will be demonstrating your work to the class at regular intervals, and participating in critiquing other people's work. That is, you will be an active participant in the class, and your work will be very visible to all.
  • Intensive coding in unfamiliar areas. Assignments are in unusual areas of computer science. You learn new technologies for each assignment, and you will be doing quite a bit of coding (some of it hard) to get things to work. If you are trying to avoid coding, or if you are taking other heavy courses and don't have much time, this may not be the course for you.
  • More than coding. For each assignment, you have to produce sketches of your ideas, and a 'visual summary' of it i.e., typically a web site that visually documents your work product, that includes downloadable code, and so on. This summary also includes specific deliverables e.g., a video, a descriptive pamphlet or product box, etc. These have to have aesthetic value, and thus takes quite a bit of time to do.
  • Rapid assignment turnaround. Assignments are done in stages with deliverables at each stage i.e., every class or two. This means that you have to be on top of your assignments. You will have to work on them continuously rather than in bursts.
  • Extremely high expectations. Students have done amazing things in this course - I have shown many assignments at conferences and wrote about them in papers. Because everything you do is 'public' to the other students, there is intensive friendly competition to do well. Excellent assignments are the norm --- I really mean this!
  • Independent work. Assignments typically open ended. We give you a rough indication of what we expect, but its up to you to create your own ideas. This means you have to be ready to propose and follow through on your own ideas.
  • No team projects. You are responsible for all aspects of your assignments. While the rest of the class will see and critique your work, ultimately its on your shoulders to produce all deliverables.

Who usually gets into this course?

The course has limited enrollment, and admission is by permission of the instructor. This makes admission highly competitive. I usually interview students if they meet a minimum criteria. The following factors affect admission.

  • Strong GPA. Because of the demands of this course, I usually interview only students who have a strong GPA (e.g., at least a B).
  • Has taken 481. If you have not taken it yet but are enrolled, I will be telling the class about it sometimes in mid-term. That is the time to apply.
  • Good results in CPSC 481. If you did poorly in 481, you likely would do poorly in this course.
  • Motivated. This is an advanced course, and I look for students who are enthusiastic and motivated about this subject.
  • Experience in arts or other creative fields. Because of its creative nature, students with experience in other 'arts' disciplines are usually better prepared for this course. Things I look for are background in art (painting/sketching/pottery etc), or performing arts (dance, music), or graphical design, or creative interface design. While this is not a requirement, I do tend to favor students with this background if all else is equal.

What you need to do.

Still interested?

  • Reread the above. Consider the amount of work the course demands and your interest level. Are you still keen? Do you fit the expected requirements ? Have you completed 481?
  • Email me to tell me about your interest. Include your full name, student number, GPA, how you faired in 481, and any related experiences you have in the arts and design. This is an informal note... I am not expecting a resume.
  • Interview. Based on the above, I may invite you for an interview (by phone or face to face). I will use this time to talk to you about the course and to sound out your background. If you have any work products (e.g., 481, or even artistic pieces) bring them.