Computer Science @ Unimelb (Raphael)

Hi everyone, hope exams are going well for you all! For anyone interested in it, I thought I’d make a post to reflect on my study of Computer Science this year at Uni. It’s an area that really interests me and that I’ve really enjoyed learning about this year.

A core part of Computer Science is programming; writing the foreign-looking code which forms instructions for computers to carry out tasks for you. You start very basic, but it’s immediately powerful and magical, letting you take input from the keyboard and do whatever you like with it, using the insane power of computers to execute countless commands in fractions of a second.

If you’ve done a little bit of programming in the past like I had, and been hooked on the feeling of seeing your program work perfectly after a long time spent writing it, I’m happy to tell you that this feeling continues at University. Creating something from nothing, after a long time spent thinking, reasoning and solving the problem one line of code at a time feels great, and it’s one of the things I love about the discipline. I was worried that as programming started to get more advanced and complex that it would lose this aspect, but I’m happy to report that first-year CS has been all I was hoping for.

In semester one, you study the subject COMP10001 Foundations of Computing. It’s been a very vibrant subject I’d say, with great lecturers and an interactive learning site to guide your beginnings in programming. Most of the subject is about programming (with the Python language) but there’s also a bit about general computing topics like the internet and problem-solving algorithms.

Projects formed a major part of the assessment, and were fun for me. There were three of them, and they got quite difficult, with the second one being widely complained about! There was a particularly memorable moment of solidarity a few days before the Project 2 deadline, where computing students crowded a computer lab, getting the last bit of help we could from the tutor-on-duty and trying, individually but all at the same time, to figure out how to do the project. The last assignment involved writing an AI player for a card game, which may sound crazy for an introductory subject, but you’d be surprised by how much you can learn in a semester, and the card game project was a great experience.

Second semester is COMP10002 Foundations of Algorithms, where you go much more in-depth with techniques for solving Computer Science problems like sorting and searching data, comparing algorithms and figuring out the trade-offs for each. There’s a lot more learning under-the-hood, and going more in-depth with programming using the harder C language. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy, including a great, engaging and entertaining lecturer! Seriously, if you can do this subject in second semester instead of first, it will be worth your while! (I can’t speak for the lecturer in S1, but S2 is just so good!!) The two assignments in COMP10002 were very challenging, but also very rewarding and I learned heaps from them.

Both subjects include a mid-semester test as well as an end-of-semester exam. The COMP10001 mid-sem was the first time I had been in exam mode since VCE exams, and it was significant to go back into a big room (Wilson Hall) with rows of chairs and have to find your seat. Uni exams are better than VCAA exams though, you can even take your phone into the exam room as long as it’s turned off and under your table! During end-of-semester exams, you’re in the huge Royal Exhibition Building with thousands of other students, you have a seat number that you have to find and you have to have your student card to get marked off. There process feels different but becomes familiar after a while, even though I’ll still never be comfortable with exams!

So whether you’re thinking of doing a B-Sci in Computing and Software Systems, or you’re set on Arts but will take Computing as your Breadth elective (both good choices), get excited for Computer Science @ UniMelb!

I’ve got another couple of weeks of exams, but I’ve got a bit more to write about before my year blogging is over. So keep checking back over the next few weeks!

Raph 😄

PS If you’re interested at all in how quickly Computing as a field has grown, check out this article I wrote about it for the student magazine Farrago!

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