The Computing IRL semester shows students the connections between computing concepts and work.
The program includes computer science coursework in which students will see how computing techniques and ideas inform and are informed by their interaction with the real world. The program also includes an internship at various organizations that have links to Occidental College and the Los Angeles area. For example, STEAM:CODERS is a non-profit in Pasadena dedicated to bringing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education to students at underserved K-12 institutions. Interns there will learn about STEAM education, about how technology supports or excludes low-income communities, and about the structure and operation of community non-profits. We will consult with students before placing them with an organization and we hope to match incoming students with more advanced students within each organization. This dynamic program exemplifies the vitality and promise of liberal arts approaches by applying academic inquiry to our communities’ most pressing needs.
Fall 2020 Program Description
Together this 8 to 12-credit cluster can fulfil the Math/Science and Fall CSP core requirements. All components of the program will be fully remote so that any Oxy student may participate regardless of where they reside. Please note the class times in the descriptions below--required synchronous meetings will be held during these times.
All students in the program take ONE of the following courses:
COMP 131: Fundamentals of Computer Science
- Class time #1: MWF 9:45-10:40am, with Lab time: either Tues 8:30-11:25am or Tues 1:30-4:25pm
- Class time #2: MWF 11:00-11:55am, with Lab time: either Thurs 8:30-11:25am or Thurs1:30-4:25pm
- Class time #3: MWF 12:55-1:50pm, with Lab time: either Tues 8:30-11:25am or Tues 1:30-4:25pm
- 4 credits; meets the Lab Science core requirement
- Computer Science is about the organization of information and the design of processes that use it. This course teaches students to think computationally - how to break down processes into components that can then be fully described - and to acquire other habits necessary for a computer scientist. Students should come out of the course able to write simple, but complete, programs of their choosing, and should also be able to diagnose problems in unfamiliar programs.
COMP 146: Statistics
- Class time #1: MWF 8:30-9:25am, with Lab time: either Thurs 1:30-4:25pm or Thurs 3:05-4:30pm
- Class time #2: MWF 11-11:55am, with Lab time: either Tues 8:30-9:55am or Tues 10:05-11:30am
- 4 credits; meets the Math/Science core requirement
- Comprehensive study of measures of central tendency, variation, probability, the normal distribution, sampling, estimation, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing. Introduction to use of technology in statistics. Real-life problems are used to illustrate methods.
COMP 229: Data Structures
- Required pre-requisite: COMP 131 or equivalent, or score of 4 or 5 on the AP Computer Science A exam
- Class time: either MWF 11-11:55am or MWF 1:30-2:25pm
- 4 credits; meets the Math/Science core requirement
- We begin with topics found in advanced programming. In particular, topics from object-oriented programming and how this differs from procedural programming. We then move on to the study of dynamic data structures, such as linked lists, stacks, queues, trees, heaps, graphs, hash tables, sets and more. Completion of this course opens up the remainder of the Computer Science classes and is required for minors. Common themes that run throughout this course are: (1) implementation of the abstract data types, and (2) spatial and memory consideration and analysis.
All students in the program engage in an internship:
COMP 295: Computing IRL Internship
Facilitated by Prof. Leonard, Computer Science
- Fridays 8-9am, internship work TBD
- 4 credits
- Students will work with LA-based non-profits such as STEAM:CODERS, a Pasadena-based organization that teaches local middle and high school students to program, or the Association for Women in Mathematics, a national organization that promotes women in computation. Students will complete weekly reflection papers and a final presentation describing what they’ve learned about computation IRL.
OPTIONAL, LIMITED AVAILABILITY—In addition to one of the courses and the internship above, students in the program MAY ALSO request to enroll in this course:
CSP 5 - Our New Computer Overlords
Taught by Prof. Li, Computer Science and Cognitive Science
- MWF 12:15-1:10pm
- 4 credits, meets the CSP first-stage writing requirement
- From social media to high-frequency trading, from self-driving cars to recidivism prediction, computers have pretty much taken over our world. While technology has given us Netflix and Tinder, it has also brought new problems to society. Computational gerrymandering and the subversion of democracy through targeted social media campaigns continuously make headlines. Algorithms that know you are pregnant before you tell your parents or that discriminate against people of color in beauty contests are no longer science fiction but reality. How did we come to create our new computer overlords? And more importantly, what do we do now? Reading broadly from scientific and news articles as well as research and personal blogs, students will complete the course with an understanding of the societal problems that algorithms try (and often fail) to solve, and gain a healthy skepticism for purely technological solutions to complex issues.