Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why my semester is exciting

Since most of my audience knows me personally and has been asking about my courses (and even if you don't, I think you'll still find this post interesting), here are the classes I am taking this semester, why I'm excited about them, and my first impressions.

~ CMSC 491 - Computation, Complexity, and Emergence
This class, taught by Dr. DesJardins, is at it's most basic level about patterns in nature and what kinds of things we can observe from the patterns. At a more detailed level, we're going to simulate those patterns on the computer and determine how different levels of complexity develop, etc. I'm excited about it for a couple of reasons. First, it's an honors course, so the class is smaller, and it's discussion based, so it promises to be a lively class. Second, because I'm really excited about taking a class with Dr. DesJardins, because she is super cool  and smart, and a personal role model. Third, (but no less important) because I'm excited about building my nature model. If possible, I want to model how flowers know where to grow their next leaves and petals, which should make my Wildflower Camp friends smile. So far, we've ended every lecture for this class by playing a game, so it's a win in my book. I'm already involved in lively discussions with my classmates online, and it promises to be great (but a bit hard, definitely, as Dr. DesJardins will be assigning a lot of writing assignments).

~ CMSC 479 - Introduction to Robotics
This class, taught by Dr. Oates, is exactly what it sounds like. We're talking about the basics of autonomous mobile robots, which means robots that are not controlled by remote control, but can make their own "decisions" based on surroundings, and are able to move freely, instead of being bolted to a specific point. I'm excited for this class first because I haven't had robot experience, and it's a really interesting field, second because Tim Oates is one of the best professors I've ever had the pleasure of having, and I am really looking forward to taking another class with him, and thirdly because it gives me the opportunity to pretend I'm a computer engineer, instead of a computer scientist. The first two days of this class have been fabulous, watching videos and discussing recent robotic developments, and the readings promise for a bright future. Also, as a side note, having worked at NASA and heard a lot about the various robot/Mars rover project, it's cool to talk about them in class.

~ CMSC 313 - Assembly Language and Computer Organization
This class, taught by Dennis Frey, is a required CS course for majors. It's one of the harder classes CS majors take, because you learn assembly, which is basically a computer language that no one really uses. However, I am also learning C in this course, which I anticipate will be useful in my future as a programmer, and so far the professor seems very engaging and accessible. I also know a lot of my classmates, which makes for easy/more fun studying.

~ CMSC 345 - Software Design and Development
This class, taught by Susan Mitchell, only has ten students in it because I'm in a pilot program for having UMBC students work for a real corporation, which is super exciting! The material for this class so far has reflected my experience on a development team this past summer, so it seems very realistic and I look forward to developing a project from start to finish with my classmates

~ ANCS 150 - English Word Roots from Latin and Greek
This course, taught by Anna Peterson, is to fulfill my culture credit, and I wasn't super excited about it until I started the reading. Basically, we're studying the history of the English language and learning how to dissect words to discover their meaning. Having taken both Latin and Greek several years ago, I look forward to this course and improving my vocabulary. It's a nice change from the CMSC courses, and it promises to be really interesting, but not too difficult.

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