COMP 140: Computational Thinking

  • Course StartAugust 26, 2019
  • Course Duration15 weeks
  • Credit OfferedRice University Credit

Develop core computer science skills and learn about problem solving in a way that utilizes computation.

Course Description

This course is only open to freshmen and sophomore students.

The modern world is driven by computers. In the last week, what was the longest stretch of time you went without interacting with a computer in some way? Think of cell phones, cars, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Wikipedia. From research to real-world applications, computer scientists constantly discover ways to improve lives by creating bold new solutions that connect us to information and to each other in unexpected, forward-thinking ways. Few professions can turn ideas into realities so quickly. Few have such a direct and positive effect on people’s everyday lives. In this course, we will study the foundations of computational thinking and teach you how computer scientists use computers to solve problems in ways that will shape the 21st century.

The objective of this course is not to turn you into a programmer. Rather, this course is designed to give you an overview of computer science and teach you about problem solving in a way that utilizes computation. Upon completion of this course, you will have a feel for how to think about and structure problems in such a way that you can use a computer to help you solve them. Programming is necessarily a part of this process, but it is neither the only part nor the most important part.

COMP 140 is an introductory course designed for any student interested in using computation to enhance their problem solving abilities. No prior experience in programming is necessary. Mathematics at the high school level (e.g., algebra, trigonometric functions, geometry, elementary probability concepts) will be assumed.

There is no required textbook for the course. After you start the class, if you feel like you need reference materials, there are some suggested Python references on the Canvas site, some of which are free, online sites and some of which are printed books.

For more information:

Course Format

4 credit hour class

Students who enroll in the fully-online section of COMP 140 will do all of the same exercises and activities as the students in the face-to-face sections. The only difference is that instead of meeting in a classroom twice a week, “class” will instead consist of video conferences. 

Students will work in groups of 2 or 3 students during class time on designated exercises. Groups and meeting times will be determined during the first week of class. There will be multiple options for live session times, including sessions that meet on Tue/Thu and sessions that meet on Wed/Fri. The final session times will be decided based upon student demand and staff availability. You will work with the same group throughout the semester, meeting twice a week at the same time, just as if you were in a conventional class. The staff will join your video conferences, just as they would join your groups within the classroom.

In order to be in the online section, you must own a computer capable of video conferencing and a webcam that allows you to do so. You may not participate using audio only, you must participate using video.

Students in the fully-online section must attend the midterm and final exams in person. You will take the exact same exams at the exact same time as the face-to-face sections.

Lecture Samples




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Professor Information

Picture of Dr. Scott Rixner

Dr. Scott Rixner

Scott Rixner is a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University. His research spans virtualization, operating systems, and computer architecture, with a specific focus on memory systems and networking. He is well versed in the internals of the Python programming language, as he has developed Python interpreters for both embedded systems and web browsers. He […]

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