Spring 2024 — 4.0 Units
2024-01-08 through 2024-05-04
Class time: Tue & Thu, 13:45 – 15:25
Class location: Seaver 314
Keck Lab Mgr.: Masao Kitimura
Doolan 104
Dept. Admin.: Gina Konrad
Doolan 101

CMSI 3630 Syllabus/Course Description Page

ENGR 160 or consent of professor
Professor: B.J. Johnson, PhD
Office Hrs: Mon – Thu, 10:00 – 12:00
also Mon – Wed, 13:00 – 15:00
Office Location: Doolan 220 or Personal Z'room on line
[I'm also available by appointment]

[Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Phil Dorin, teacher, mentor and friend.]

Course Description from the Latest University Bulletin [2023-2024]

The rigorous application of computing paradigms and principles to the development of software systems for solving engineering problems, with hands-on programming comprising a significant portion of the course. Laboratory exercises and projects are implemented with modern languages, toolsets, and libraries for scientific computing and linear algebra. Topics include data structures including arrays, lists, and balanced trees; traditional algorithms for searching and sorting; and algorithms for computational geometry, large-scale data processing, and machine learning. Intended for Engineering majors only, computer science majors will take CMSI 2120 and 2130.

Course Prerequisites


This class uses Python for its concrete examples, homework, and exams. There will be some class time spent reviewing Python fundamentals at the beginning of the semester. You are more than welcome to ask for whatever clarification you need at any time, either in class or out. If you require additional practice with Python, there are any number of online tutorials which you can use to hone your skills. In addition you can use other professors' web sites [either LMU or other schools] and things like Code Academy, Kahn Academy, codingbat.com, and the ubiquitous Stack Overflow to help you when you are stuck. You can even ask your humble professor in a pinch — I'm always glad to help!

Course Structure

This course will be in person, and will be recorded [mostly — there are times when I forget to start the thing]. Video recordings will be posted to the course BrightSpace page. Every effort will be made to post the videos in a timely manner so that they are available as close to the ending of each class session as possible.

Instructions to Access Brightspace

You will also need to have access to the BrightSpace course page for section 1 for this class. On those pages you will find links to some video information of course content and how-to demonstrations. Your access to that site should be automatic; if you have problems accessing it contact me or the wonderful and amazing LMU IT department for assistance.

Note that the official course description above is not very specific.... there is more detail below!

Learning data structures, like anything else, takes practice and perseverance. You must be willing to make mistakes, to learn how to fix them, and to learn not to be afraid of them. Humans [and now even computers!] learn by making mistakes, and this is the place to do so without fear.

Course Goals, Objectives, and Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes of the Course

When you finish the course, you will be able to:

  • understand analytic programming concepts such as asymptotics, time-complexity, and space-complexity – that not all programs are created equal; two programs that perform the same task may not do so with the same efficiency or cleanliness
  • be introduced to a wide range of Abstract Data Types [ADTs] and learn which ones are best suited for which tasks, including: arrays, linked lists, stacks, queues, heaps, hash tables, sets, trees, graphs, and more
  • gain a deeper understanding of class hierarchies, classes vs. objects, and implementing ADTs in concrete classes
  • learn something about the Python modules, including building your own, and how to use them in a variety of non-trivial programming tasks
  • identify beneficial and detrimental interactions between ADTs and the algorithms that operate on them
  • …and probably much more!

Expected Workload

In accordance with the LMU Credit Hour Policy, the credit standard for this 4-unit standard 17-week course is met by an expected workload of a total of 180 hours of student engagement with the course learning activities [at least 45 hours per credit], which includes regularly scheduled instructor-student meeting times and/or equivalent direct faculty instruction, such as systematic readings, research activities under the supervision of the instructor, asynchronous presentations, group work, and other learning activities. You should also anticipate needing additional time outside of class to complete assignments. The University's Credit Unit Policy can be found here.

What You'll Need for Success

good to go

In a nutshell, here's what you'll need to do to be successful in this course.

*YOU* promise to:

  • Attend all classes — come prepared, having done the reading and having watched any videos
  • Do all the assigned homework, including watching videos, visiting web sites, reading articles
  • Participate in class discussions, exercises, and activities
  • Ask LOTS of questions, both in class and out of class
  • Do well on the tests, which if you do the previous things will be no problem!

…and *I* promise to:

  • Ensure that learning outcomes for the course are clearly stated in this syllabus and are addressed during the semester
  • Be accessible and available during office hours and by appointment for interactive discussions, which can be one-on-one or in small groups
  • Provide constructive assistance and feedback to help you understand the material; such assistance and feedback can be via e-mail or text chat, or in person during office hours
  • Challenge you to do your best work and improve your interest in the topics presented
  • Always let you know as early as possible in advance, whenever I can, if there are any changes to the course or related materials
  • Always allow you to take photos of the whiteboard and to record lectures if you wish
  • Do whatever I can to ensure you leave this course with more skill than you had when you came into it

Instructional Methods


Course content will be delivered using a combination of lecture, discussion, problem-based learning, group work, projects, presentations, critiques, community-based learning, portfolios, etc. All work will be submitted using a GitHub repository. Use of GitHub and all other tools required for the course will be explained during class sessions. However, it will be up to the students to handle any and all installation on their respective computer. Of course, if you need help, it will be available! There are Teaching Assistants in the Keck Lab [Doolan 112], and you can always ask your classmates. Your humble professor will be available as well, and I'll do my best to make the concepts as clear as I can!

Textbooks and Resources

There is NO required textbook for the course.

There is one optional textbook for this course, which is NOT for sale in the LMU Bookstore:

This book will be used for ancillary material. It is VERY good for you to have on your programmer's bookshelf in some form, because it is full of lessons to help you write high-quality and easily maintained code.

THE BOOK IS NOT AVAILABLE IN THE LMU BOOKSTORE. It is available at many other fine retail outlets, both online and brick-and-mortar. We will not be using it for homework assignments, but WILL be using it for general reading and information, as well as for tutorials both in and out of the classroom.

Although we won't be covering any books in their entirety for this class, we will be using several books and online web pages and videos as primary or secondary resources.

There is also a large number of other resources which can be used to "mine the gold" for related information about data structures. The topic is a very broad field, which has been around for a very long time, and touches almost every aspect of computer science. Any Internet search on data structures will turn up at least ten million links. Many of these will be shared during class, and you will be required to find some information about specific topics on your own. You may even be required to use the LMU library, [GASP!!] so be prepared!

Lab Fees

There are no lab fees associated with this course.

General Course Topics Outline

A list of topics that are covered, and the approximate order and time frame in which they will be discussed, is available on the class notes page for this site.

Reading Assignments

Since there is no textbook, there will be no assigned reading list — that wouldn't make any sense, would it?! Instead, here are some good things to read online, or videos to watch about how things work, or some other interesting [hopefully!] things for you to check out. Be prepared to talk about some interesting things you learned or observed at the start of class for that week!

  1. For week 02Beginner's Guide to Python [online]
    Just browse through this and find some things in which you are interested before week 2 classes
  2. For week 03the W3C Schools Python site
    Check the 'Get Started' and the 'Syntax' pages; do several of the 'Try It' exercises, your choice
  3. For week 04 — [No readings assigned]
  4. For week 05LARGE list of books about Python
    Visit information about the Scientific Programming Books, and check out NumPy
  5. For week 07Online Python Interpreter in your Browser
    Run some of the Workshop exercises in this to see what happens ~ Experiment with some in-class stuff
  6. For week 09 — [No readings assigned]
  7. For week 10 — [No readings assigned]
  8. For week 11 — [No readings assigned]
  9. For week 12 — [No readings assigned]
  10. For week 14 — [No readings assigned]

Homework Assignments

All written homework assignments are due at the beginning of the class on the date they are due. There are some professors who set due dates at midnight or some such, but that is NOT the case here – the homework is due at the start of the class on the due date. Homework will be due on the second class meeting day of the week. This will give you time to visit me during office hours for questions before the assignment is due, and will give ME time to evaluate your work over the weekend to return it to you promptly the next week. Deviation from this process requires prior consent of the instructor.

Every effort is made to ensure assignments, required deliverables, and due dates are prominently posted on these pages; it is your responsibility to make sure you know what is due and when it is due.

You may certainly turn assignments in late; I will happily accept and evaluate them so you get the benefit of feedback on the assignment, but they will be reduced in grade by one letter for each day they are late. Day means day, not workday or class day; an A+ homework due on Thursday which is not turned in until the following Tuesday will unfortunately only earn a failing grade, unless some prior arrangements are made with the instructor due to illness or some major schedule conflict. However, if you want to turn something in late, I'll still provide feedback even for assignments which have no chance of any credit; I keep this policy to allow you to get the learning benefit of the assignment. My philosophy is that it is important for the student to know the material, even if an assignment doesn't get the best marks.

All assignments must use proper American English and/or Programming Language spelling and grammar. Failure to do so will cost you points on every assignment, so get a spell-checker and a grammar checker, or find a friend who is proficient to proofread your work before it is submitted.

Most of your work will be submitted using GitHub; however, any assignments which are to be printed out for submission must be printed on a printer.

Other than these simple rules, there are no requirements for formatting, fonts, colors, diagrams, or anything else with respect to your homework assignments, other than good code craftsperson-ship.

You will need to create a GitHub repository. Please use the naming convention and the directory structure as it is shown on the Week 01 web page in the Assignment Submission section.

Make sure the repo is a PRIVATE repo. I realize that this kind of flies in the face of the idea of "Open Source Culture"; however, the reason is that if the repo is public, I can't post updated evaluations since everyone will be able to see your results, which are Personally Identifiable Information [PII] and thus must be kept private.

There will be four homework assignments during the semester, due on the days shown in the list below. Each assignment will contain several exercises to help give you experience with the concepts covered. Each of these assignments is detailed on a separate web page; they are available from the links below. Solutions will be provided after ALL the assignments are handed in. This policy provides a motivation for everyone to turn assignments in on time, since NO ONE gets the solutions until EVERYONE has submitted their work.


  1. Homework #1 — Due date Thursday of week 02
  2. Homework #2 — Due date Thursday of week 04
  3. Homework #3 — Due date Thursday of week 10
  4. Homework #4 — Due date Thursday of week 15

There will also be weekly in-class exercises which serve to reinforce the week's concepts presented in class. They will be submitted in your GitHub repo, but are only part of your class participation AND ARE NOT PART OF YOUR GRADE. They provide an indication of your progress and understanding. They are practice drills, but are good for maintaining and improving your skills. Also, having access to your repo helps ME to help YOU ~ I can take a regular look to see how you are doing, and you can also commit code that is in process with which you need my help.

By the way, GitHub has no limit on storage. PLEASE DON'T HESITATE TO COMMIT YOUR CODE! There is no harm in committing code frequently so you have a 'baseline' – this can be VERY handy!

Exams, Quizzes, Tests, and Projects

There will be two quizzes during the semester, scheduled for Thursday of week six and Thursday of week 11. Note that they are interspersed with the homework assignments, such that there will not be any homework assignment due on a test date. Note that due to popular convention, the quizzes will be known as tests henceforth, and are cumulative.

There will be a final exam, which will be scheduled per the university's official exam schedule. Check the date and time on the schedule Final Exam schedule, which is easily available here. At this writing, the exam is scheduled for this section as follows:

Class Start TimeClass DaysExam Start TimeExam Day
13:45 PMTuesday-Thursday11:00 [11:00 AM]Thursday

The final is a cumulative final, which covers everything for the entire semester.

Missed quizzes or tests: it is the responsibility of the student to provide adequate advance notice to the professor if a scheduled quiz or test is going to be missed. If you have a conflict in schedule which will cause a missed exam, please notify the professor at least two days in advance, if possible, to avoid a failing grade for that exam. Prior arrangements must be made in order for a make-up exam to be taken, since this situation requires the professor to create a second copy of the exam/quiz/test.

Use of Technology

You will need access to a computer of some variety.

…Well, Duh…

If you don't have a computer available, let me know and I will try to work with Masao to get something set up for you using a computer in the Keck Lab on campus.

zoom on, bro

You should download and install the Python environment from the Python downloads site.. The latest version at this writing is Python 3.12.0. If you are working on a Mac computer, you may have Python installed already; however, it is likely not the latest version and the versions are quite different The version that is shipped with the Mac O/S is usually 2.7 — much has changed!

You will also need to install and use some sort of text editor into which you can type your code in ASCII/Unicode text-only form. You cannot use a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Mac's TextEdit [unless you configure it properly] or other word-processing software which puts in \ special characters that Python won't recognize [like those slanted quotes]. Several possible free tools are available, such as the following:

You can certainly use Notepad [on Windows] or TextEdit [on Mac, if properly configured for plain text] to edit your source code, but it can be difficult to collaborate with these tools due to the lack of line numbers at the left margin. Also, there is no syntax coloring in those editors. On Mac, in the terminal window you can use the vi or vim or gvim editors, but they take some getting used to and are rather an acquired taste unless you are going to be doing a great deal of programming on UNIX or Linux.

Another helpful tool is a testing framework. While test code, or at least skeletons for test code, will be provided to you for some projects, there is a very nice free test framework called PyUnit that can help you a lot. It is available for free download from this site, which also has complete instructions for setup and use, and some sample code to help you make sure it works. After youhave downloaded both files, follow the Getting Started instructions at this location.

Attendance and Participation

Students are expected to attend classes as part of the expected workload, as explained above. You should arrive on time to all course meetings, prepared to engage in the course content. Arriving late or leaving early disrupts the learning experience. You are expected to notify the instructor in advance whenever possible if you will miss a class or if you anticipate arriving late or leaving early. You are expected to participate in all class activities — participation in this course is measured by how much you engage in the content and the activities. Activities are provided to assist your learning and help your progress toward the final assignments. As such, no assignments are optional unless they are labeled as optional.

Obviously, if you skip too many classes, you will likely not do well in the course, since you will miss important parts of the material; this is a simple and self-fulfilling prophecy.

I want to emphasize that I care about your learning. As part of your learning process in this class, I would like to invite you to evaluate yourself and participate in your own assessment for the class. It is important to me to know how you are doing – for example, are you understanding the concepts, are you able to put them into real-life situations and examples, are you connecting and engaging with the material, are the explanations clear to you. That is part of why there are in-class exercises every week, to give you experience with the concepts for that week.

Another thing — part of your class participation is to do the weekly in-class exercises and upload them to your GitHub repository. You will need to create the repository in the form that is given on the week one page, so that I can find them. These submissions will *NOT* be a part of your course grade other than as part of your participation.

The class participation rubric appears with the grading stuff in the tables further down the page.

Extra Credit

There will be no 'outside' extra credit given in this course. There are a couple of problems in the set of homeworks which are optional and will provide extra credit on those particular assignments if you so choose.


Please review the Academic Degree Requirements and Policy information found here. Grades for the course are assigned according to the weighting factors shown in the tables below. Though it is uneven in its distribution, which [being OCD] I really dislike, your final letter grades will be assigned based on the following scale, which will be rounded to the nearest integer as appropriate:

PercentLetterRating and Achievement
90 - 100% A / A- Professional quality work; outstanding
80 - 89% B+ / B / B- Entry-level quality work; above average, shows extra effort and interest
70 - 79% C+ / C / C- Satisfactory work; expected with reasonable effort
60 - 69% D Substandard work; minimal effort shown
59 or less F Thank you for playing; see you next semester

Evaluation ItemWeight
Homework [total, all 4]20%
Github config correct 05%
Quiz #1 15%
Quiz #2 20%
Final Exam 30%
Class Participation 10%

Class Participation Criteria [Each Class Meeting]Value
Absent *without* prior notification/agreement of professor 0 pts
Absent *with* prior notification/agreement of professor OR 5 pts
Present in class, and hopefully:
Demonstrates excellent preparation from readings and other material.
Offers analysis, synthesis, and evaluation; puts together pieces of the
discussion to develop new approaches that take the class further.
Also, has in-class code checked in to proper classwork folder for the week.

Also of note…

An incomplete will be granted only when the requesting student has done at least 80% of the coursework, and has at least a B average in the course work completed. This policy is standard LMU policy.

Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Policy:

Please read the policy in the University Bulletin.

NOTE: All work is evaluated for both technical merit and quality of written and/or oral presentation. Find yourself a good spelling and grammar checker, or a trusted human editor, if you are having any difficulty with the rules of standard English language usage. Another excellent resource is the Academic Resource Center [ARC], located on the south side of Daum Hall. The center takes appointments, and also allows drop-in consultation sessions, and they have a number of good benefits. Call (310) 338-2847 to schedule an appointment. [For those that don't know, Daum Hall is the building where the LMU Security and Parking office used to be, which is not the home of ITS. ARC is on the second floor.]

The ARC also provides student support in the form of University advising, writing support, tutoring services, and first-to-go support, as well as:

Another thing to remember is, your coding style is just as important a part of your assignment evaluations as correctly running code. I WILL NOT HESITATE to take points off for code that has hard-coded numbers, lack of proper comments, poorly aligned indenting, etc. EVEN IF THE CODE RUNS CORRECTLY! Further, let me re-state that code that does not compile will be not be evaluated and you will have to do it over to get any credit for the assignment. Remember that I compile and run your code from the command line so just because it works in your editor is not a guarantee that it will work for me. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.


In this class, documentation which is not of professional quality is no longer acceptable. Spelling, grammar, and internal document consistency all count and will cost you big-time if not correct! I will not hesitate to knock off a full letter grade on an otherwise perfectly correct assignment if there are egregious and/or numerous spelling/grammar errors. In addition, coding style will play a large part in determining the grade on the code for the homework and project. It is the job of each student to properly structure, comment, and indent, to select the proper names for variables, and to not hard-code values. NO MAGIC NUMBERS!



Course Evaluations

Student feedback on this course provides valuable information for continued improvement. All students are expected to fairly and thoughtfully complete a course evaluation for this course. All course evaluations for the Seaver College of Science and Engineering are administered online through the Blue evaluation system. You will receive several e-mail notifications at your Lion e-mail address when the evaluation form is available near the end of the term. You may also access the evaluation form on Brightspace during the evaluation period. A few minutes of class time will be reserved for you to complete a course evaluation near the end of the semester. Please bring a laptop, smart phone, tablet or other mobile device to class on this date so that you can access the online evaluation platform.

Academic Honesty and Integrity


General Statement

Loyola Marymount University is a community dedicated to academic excellence, student-centered education, and the Jesuit and Marymount traditions. As such, the University expects all members of its community to act with honesty and integrity at all times, especially in their academic work. Academic honesty respects the intellectual and creative work of others, flows from dedication and pride in performing one's own best work, and is essential if true learning is to take place. As an LMU Lion, by the Lion's Code, you are pledged to join the discourse of the academy with honesty of voice and integrity of scholarship.

Academic dishonesty will be treated as an extremely serious matter, with severe consequences that can range from receiving no credit for an assignment or test to failing the class, to expulsion.

  • It is never permissible to turn in any work that has been copied from another student or copied from a source [including the Internet] without properly acknowledging/citing the source.
  • It is never permissible to work on an assignment, exam, quiz or any project with another person unless your instructor has indicated so in the written instructions/guidelines.
  • It is your responsibility to make sure that your work meets the standard of academic honesty set forth in the Academic Honesty Policy found at: academics.lmu.edu/honesty/.

For an additional resource, see and the LMU Honor Code and Process found at: this link.

Unauthorized Access to or Alteration of Privileged and Proprietary Information:

Special Accommodations

The DSS Office offers resources to enable students with physical, learning, ADD/ADHD, psychiatric disabilities and those on the autism spectrum to achieve maximum independence while pursuing their educational goals. Staff specialists interact with all areas of the University to eliminate physical and attitudinal barriers. Students must provide documentation for their disability from an appropriate licensed professional. Services are offered to students who have established disabilities under state and federal laws. We also advise students, faculty and staff regarding disability issues. Students who need reasonable modifications, special assistance, academic accommodations or housing accommodations should direct their request to the DSS Office as soon as possible. All discussions will remain confidential.

The DSS Office is located on the 2nd floor of Daum Hall and may be reached by email at dsslmu@lmu.edu or phone at (310) 338-4216. Please visit http://www.lmu.edu/dss for additional information.

Students should also keep in mind that resources are available through the Library [https://library.lmu.edu] and Information Technology Services [https://its.lmu.edu]. The DSS Office can help students connect with the appropriate person at the Library and ITS.

Respect For Self And Others

As an LMU Lion, by the Lion's code, you are pledged to join the discourse of the academy with honesty of voice and integrity of scholarship and to show respect for staff, professors, and other students.

The following LMU documents are available to reference:

  • LMU's Community Standards, which defines prohibited conduct (section III):
    available for download at: Community Standards document]
  • The Lion's Code [see LMU's Community Standards at the link immediately above.]
  • The LMU Student Affairs brochure Disruptive and Threatening Student Behavior (Fall 2010), which states Disruptive behavior which is persistent or significantly interferes with classroom activities may be subject to disciplinary action. A student may be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs if their behavior constitutes a violation of the conduct code.

For more information on this or any other conduct issues, please refer to the Student Codes and Policies section in the Community Standards. The Lion's Code, Student Conduct Code, Honor Code and Process, and information on many other policies are available from that link. You can find any and all other related data from the Office of Student Conduct & Community Responsibility web page. Also check the main Student Affairs Department Website.

Expectations for Classroom Behavior

Electronic Devices: Pretty easy — please turn off your cell phone ringer during class time. That's it for me! However…

The official LMU language for this is:

Please turn off and put out of sight all electronic devices (other than those and when allowed)
during class-time. The interruptions and/or distractions they cause disrupt class and interfere
with the learning process. Even if you are not on video, it's distracting to you.

Emergency Preparedness

Public Safety can be reached 24/7/365 at 310.338.2893 [or x222 from a campus phone]. In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 first and then call Public Safety if possible. To report an incident, call Public Safety, submit an e-report on the Public Safety website or via the Rave Guardian mobile app, or visit Public Safety in Foley Annex. Review evacuation information and other safety tips posted in each learning space. Make sure you're registered to receive emergency alerts – confirm your contact information in PROWL, and also download Rave Guardian in the Apple or Google Play store. For more information and emergency preparedness tips, visit https://publicsafety.lmu.edu.

To report an emergency or suspicious activity, contact the LMU Department of Public Safety by phone (x222 or 310-338-2893) or at the nearest emergency call box. In the event of an evacuation, follow the evacuation signage throughout the building to the designated safe refuge area where you will receive further instruction from Public Safety or a Building Captain.

For purposes of evacuating the Doolan Hall or Pereira buildings, our safe area is the sunken gardens. There will be people to guide you.

For more safety information and preparedness tips, visit http://www.lmu.edu/emergency.

Office Hours / Communication / Contact Information

Office hours are listed at the top of this syllabus page. I will make every effort to be available during those hours, and if I cannot for some emergency reason, I'll make sure you all know about it in advance if possible. Since we are, for the present, back in person on campus, my office hours will be held IN MY OFFICE!!! HUZZAH!!!

I am also always available by e-mail at: my LMU mail address


YOU MUST CHECK YOUR LION EMAIL ADDRESS OF RECORD. I will start the semester's communications by sending all email blasts to everyone's lion.lmu.edu email address, which is known as your address of record. It is important for me to have an email address which you will check on a regular basis.

Tentative Nature of the Syllabus

If necessary, this syllabus and its contents are subject to revision. Students are responsible for any changes or modifications announced or distributed in class, emailed to students' LMU Lion accounts or posted on LMU's course management system, Brightspace. If you are absent from an in-person or online class meeting, it is your responsibility to check Brightspace [and/or the course website] and to check with the professor to see if you missed any important class announcements. Students should not rely on word-of-mouth from classmates.