A tour of the Computer Science Department at CSU

Colorado State University.
Fort Collins, Colorado.
CSU is home to 33,000+ students.
Fort Collins has a population of about 144,000 people.
And both are growing fast!

This past year Colorado State unveiled a new stadium, biology building, health center, parking garage, and in recent years a new bioengineering building and yes–computer science building.

The new Computer Science Building sits in the heart of the campus: the LSC (Lory Student Center) Plaza. Possibly the busiest place on campus and all of those people walk by the tall building made of glass that is the CSB.

Sponsored by our local company HP, the CSB is arguably the nicest (or at least one of) the nicest buildings on campus. It has a rectangular floor plan for each of the four floors (which house graduate student rooms, professor offices, conference rooms, server rooms, and computer science labs). You will always be able to find whatever you need from it because you can just follow the rectangular hall around each floor and eventually you have seen everything.

The first floor is the only one that doesn’t follow suit, but there are only 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms so I sure hope you cannot get lost there. Entering the lobby from one of three different entrances you will find it has chairs, tables, and couches for studying or relaxing with friends, a large lecture room for upper-level computer science courses and ACM chapter events, a windows computer lab (which even non-computer science students use), and the infamous 120 lab which is for computer science majors (or class taking students) can enter. In here are around 100 different machines on the computer science network for students to use, a TA desk for the different classes to have TA officer hours and provide help, and two separate rooms with a whiteboard for office hours or studying. The nice thing about having a reserved space like this is it is a great place to meet fellow CS or similar majors and even ones not in your same classes/year. It really gives you a sense of community within the Computer Science Department.

Moving to the second floor you will find a front desk where you can make appointments or ask for general info. You will also find your advisors and a few teacher’s offices here as well as the main conference room. Along the front side, you will find the computer labs used for many of the freshman and sophomore classes’ recitations. Here your TA will lead your through a lesson and you will get hands-on programming practice where you can also ask questions. (Bonus piece of advice, if it is after 5:00 and the room is empty, as long as no one has reserved it you can use these rooms if the 120 lab gets too busy. Same goes with the labs on the third floor).

Moving up to the third floor you will find a large space with chairs, tables, and arguably the best view from a campus building. Going around the rectangle of the third floor you will find more computer labs, research labs, and more professor offices as well.

On the fourth floor, you will find the server room, network administration offices, more professors, and graduate student offices.

So that’s the Computer Science Building, but what about the Computer Science Program at CSU?

High School seniors applying must have a certain GPA and test score to register as a Computer Science major. Transfer students must follow a separate protocol. But, once you are accepted as a Computer Science student your advisor will help you plan your class schedule.

The nice thing (or in some cases the annoying thing) about CS here at CSU is that the first two years are extremely rigid in class structure, but the upper two years of a typical four-year degree are extremely flexible.

You can find the most up to date graduation requirements/plan on the CS department website:
https://www.cs.colostate.edu/cstop/csacademics/csdegrees/csbachelors/major.php

But the typical process for computer science classes is:
CS 163: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs163/.
– They start you off working in Java. You learn the fundamentals, how to write to code, and how to think like a programmer.
– They also have CS164, which is for students who declare prior programming experience. You go through the same material as CS163, but this allows students to be in a class setting with more “similarly skilled” peers and the teacher can choose to go faster over certain topics.

CS 165: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs165
– How to really program and think like a programmer
– Less syntax or introductory problems, more of the “real deal”.

CS 270: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs270
– Computer Architecture
– Programming in C, Assembly, and working with circuitry and bit manipulation.
– A hard class to round out your abilities.
– Once you have completed CS163/4, CS165, and CS270 you are ready for an internship and real programming. No more hand-holding from here on out.

CS 220: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs220
– Discrete structures
– Discrete math and programming in python
– Taken along with CS 270

CS 253: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs220
– Software Engineering in C++
– How good are you at debugging/testing/learning a new language.
– To finish off your Sophomore year and give you the stamp of approval that you can call yourself a software engineer.

(Also, taken alongside 253 is typically two of these courses below)
CS 370: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs370 Operating Systems
CS 320: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs320 Algorithms theory and practice
CS 356: https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~cs356/ Computer Security

From 253 on (your Junior and Senior years), you have a lot of flexibility. Whether you want to take AI, Graphics, Distributed Systems, Big Data, Compilers, Machine Learning, Bioinformatics, Networks, Parallel Computing, etc… you can choose.

The 400 levels should be your chance to explore the “cooler” topics of computer science, whatever those may be to you. Often you would want to choose a class that matches your research interests (if you have any) and hopefully, you take it from the corresponding professor who works in that field.

The Computer Science department at CSU has a wide array of active research groups/topics. You can find a list of them and the professors here:
http://www.cs.colostate.edu/cstop/csresearch.php

They also have four active student organizations running:
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM):
http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~acm/
ACM-W:
http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~acm-w/
Hashdump (security):
http://hashdump.org/
Game Development:
http://www.cs.colostate.edu/gamedev/

That’s most of it. Feel free to ask any questions and I would be happy to answer them! I have been really pleased with the CS department here at CSU and have (almost) no complaints.

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