Computer Science Coursework and Quizbowlers

Old college threads.
Locked

How much computer science-related coursework is or was required to complete your degree?

None
23
51%
A literacy class is required
7
16%
A literacy class is required, but I exempted it
0
No votes
An introductory computer science class is required
6
13%
More than one computer science class is required
9
20%
 
Total votes: 45

Kilby
Lulu
Posts: 94
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:13 pm
Location: Chattanooga, TN Area

Computer Science Coursework and Quizbowlers

Post by Kilby »

Prompted by Seth's comments in the JS Mill discussion thread...

Computer science has always been one of those categories on the fringe of the quiz bowl distribution. This is understandable because it seems to me that the average college student would be more likely to take classes in one of the more established scientific fields like chemistry, biology, or physics rather than computer science to fulfill whatever the general education requirement for what the student's degree demands. Then again, not everyone has to take classes in an area like philosophy and that field is represented much more than computer science in the typical quiz bowl distribution. For instance, the ACF distribution requires 1/1 on philosophy but does not require any questions on computer science.

Before asking the question of should the number of CS questions be increased, a better question might be whether or not people are studying this field in college. If most aren't, then keeping it as an optional but valid area to ask questions about would be reasonable. If there are a significant number of people studying it, maybe there should be more CS questions in quiz bowl. Thoughts?

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

Although I try to write CS questions as often as I can, I don't have any formal CS training beyond high school (data structures and compilers). So I'm reluctant to get into anything too hard core because I'm not sure there are enough CS people out there to justify anything beyond basic CS questions, or to justify enlarging that distribution. On the other hand, for physics or math, I feel pretty good about writing on anything within the undergraduate curriculum (for the appropriate tournaments) because there are enough players out there who will get those questions.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

Ethnic history of the Vilnius region
Yuna
Posts: 976
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 12:50 am
Location: Columbia, SC

Re: Computer Science Coursework and Quizbowlers

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

Kilby wrote:
For instance, the ACF distribution requires 1/1 on philosophy but does not require any questions on computer science.
That's the way it should be.

UFeng
Lulu
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Oct 10, 2003 1:34 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Post by UFeng »

This is understandable because it seems to me that the average college student would be more likely to take classes in one of the more established scientific fields like chemistry, biology, or physics rather than computer science to fulfill whatever the general education requirement for what the student's degree demands. Then again, not everyone has to take classes in an area like philosophy and that field is represented much more than computer science in the typical quiz bowl distribution.
Another thing along these lines may be peripheral interests- people are much more likely to read philosophy or such for enjoyment than learn to program.

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3195
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Since when is quizbowl supposed to reflect what is actually learned in school?

That may be the official myth that we're all supposed to play along to, but I think that it is absurd in this day and age. Maybe not in Science, but certainly in, say History. The sense I get is that most history departments teach social movement based history, whereas the quizbowl cannon is definately great man based.

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

Bruce wrote:Since when is quizbowl supposed to reflect what is actually learned in school?

That may be the official myth that we're all supposed to play along to, but I think that it is absurd in this day and age. Maybe not in Science, but certainly in, say History. The sense I get is that most history departments teach social movement based history, whereas the quizbowl cannon is definately great man based.
That's because the format of the game is such that it's only feasible to ask questions about things that have definite names. Things that don't are just not suitable to the format. Not being a history major I don't know if this is correct or not, but I suspect strongly (and my experience in history classes bears this out) that even as you learn about things like social movements, you also have to learn all the facts surrounding said movements. Therefore, if you really know your history, you'll know the "great men" (or events or whatever) too.

Incidentally, the science distribution at Mill was, at least in physics, quite reflective of what people actually study. Several of the questions included material that came up in one of my finals this semester. Nothing I heard was out of line with what an undergraduate majoring in physics might expect to learn about in upper division classes.

Quizbowl is an allegedly academic game. So it can't be divorced completely from that background (what "in this day and age" is supposed to mean, I don't understand; did things use to be different?). Part of studying anything is learning the facts surrounding that subject, which is the level of knowledge that quizbowl tests. That's not to say that this knowledge is the be-all and end-all of academic study, but it is an important component.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3195
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

grapesmoker wrote: Quizbowl is an allegedly academic game. So it can't be divorced completely from that background (what "in this day and age" is supposed to mean, I don't understand; did things use to be different?). Part of studying anything is learning the facts surrounding that subject, which is the level of knowledge that quizbowl tests. That's not to say that this knowledge is the be-all and end-all of academic study, but it is an important component.
I wouldn't know if things used to be different, but since the "quizbowl tests you on what you learn in school" line is so well-established, I imagine it at least once was true.

I would actually make the argument that if we limit quizbowl to what is taught in school, we are doing the game a dissservice, as what is useful to teach in school and what is useful to ask about in quizbowl are, imo, not always the same. "What are people interested in" is, to me, a much more useful question than "What do you encounter in school". School is just one of many ways that you can pick up knowledge.

NoahMinkCHS
Yuna
Posts: 827
Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Athens, GA / Macon, GA
Contact:

Post by NoahMinkCHS »

Data point -- I do computer stuff in my spare time, I do philosophy for school. Go figure.

I think NAQT has about the right amount of CS in the college distribution. I can't speak to ACF or the general circuit, though.

User avatar
Mike Bentley
Auron
Posts: 5947
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Post by Mike Bentley »

As a CS major, I naturally feel there is a lack of CS in Quizbowl. Being in that optional science category with astronomy, math, and other branches, a CS question is lucky to pop up once in two question sets. Most other "popular" majors at the very least see 1/1 guaranteed in their respective majors, and several more than that.

Of course, some sort of mandated CS tossup or bonus each round would result in some other field taking a hit, and I'm not sure exactly what this field should be. Personally, I'd like to see any sort of 1/1 Geography or even some of Your Choice replaced by CS. It just seems like a more academic subject to ask about.

Looking at CS questions themselves, I feel there is for some reason a really heavy emphasis on writing questions relating to NP problems. Yes, it's an important topic, but there are a lot of other things to ask about that are much more relevant to undergraduate CS curriculum. Data structures, algorithms, language theory, etc. are all dominated by NP questions in Quizbowl.

Also, I think it's probably as likely that someone would do some small amount of programming on the side as they would, say, get into philosophy.

User avatar
ezubaric
Rikku
Posts: 366
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 8:02 pm
Location: College Park, MD
Contact:

Post by ezubaric »

There are dreadfully few questions on CS, although my perspective is biased. I think that this poll too is asking the wrong question. I think that there are many courses that require some knowledge of CS without being CS per se. Most physics or engineering programs will involve programming at some point, biology is growing increasingly intertwined with CS, and some fields of CS are indistinguishible from math.

As for what questions are actually asked, I think that sorting is overasked, non-graph algorithms are underasked, and most theory questions are badly written. Programming questions, IMHO opinion, seem to be like elemental chemistry. It's possible to write a good question, but most people who write those questions fail.
Jordan Boyd-Graber
UMD (College Park, MD), Faculty Advisor 2018-present
UC Boulder, Founder / Faculty Advisor 2014-2017
UMD (College Park, MD), Faculty Advisor 2010-2014
Princeton, Player 2004-2009
Caltech (Pasadena, CA), Player / President 2000-2004
Ark Math & Science (Hot Springs, AR), Player 1998-2000
Monticello High School, Player 1997-1998

Human-Computer Question Answering:
http://qanta.org/

User avatar
winklerd
Lulu
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silver Spring, MD
Contact:

Post by winklerd »

Who says computer science has to be about programming? What about rewarding hardware or OS knowledge? I've written questions like this in the past for the NSC.

User avatar
Mike Bentley
Auron
Posts: 5947
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Post by Mike Bentley »

winklerd wrote:Who says computer science has to be about programming? What about rewarding hardware or OS knowledge? I've written questions like this in the past for the NSC.
Well, hardware knowledge is a little more Computer Engineering and Operating Systems a little more Information Systems, but these might as well be grouped in with programming / theory CS questions. These majors are underrepresented in Quizbowl as well, and could see more questions by being part of a CS category that gets a larger distribution.

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3195
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

winklerd wrote:Who says computer science has to be about programming? What about rewarding hardware or OS knowledge? I've written questions like this in the past for the NSC.
My experience is that legitimate computer science players like David Press think of these the same way that mainstream quizbowl players think of Science questions on glaciers or elements.

User avatar
winklerd
Lulu
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silver Spring, MD
Contact:

Post by winklerd »

Well, hardware knowledge is a little more Computer Engineering and Operating Systems a little more Information Systems, but these might as well be grouped in with programming / theory CS questions. These majors are underrepresented in Quizbowl as well, and could see more questions by being part of a CS category that gets a larger distribution.
My experience is that legitimate computer science players like David Press think of these the same way that mainstream quizbowl players think of Science questions on glaciers or elements.
I agree that these are each their own separate category, but for the sake of keeping the number of general categories under 100, why not make CS a little more inclusive? Or rename CS "Information Technology" or something like that. Perhaps these things aren't 'hard-core' CS, but they still relate to computers and are important. I'm not necessarily talking "What command in Unix..." but questions with answers like SCSI, firewire, kernel, hyperthreading....[/quote]

User avatar
ASimPerson
Rikku
Posts: 419
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2003 12:14 am
Location: San Jose, CA
Contact:

Post by ASimPerson »

There are questions you can ask about OSes (well, "systems" in general) that could probably be considered CS, like scheduling algorithms.

What you just described is basically how CS questions are treated currently, and while I've certainly taken advantage of those sorts of questions, they don't really fit into the scientific aspects of CS (and since CS is usually grouped under the "misc. science" distribution or paired with math, questions on "C" don't really jive with that).
Nick Bendler, Georgia Tech '06
Moderator emeritus

Locked