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Freshman Writes Algorithm to Decide if He Should Drop CIS 121


Photo by Wesley Nitsckie / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s midterm season again, and for many, it’s also drop season.

Freshman Jim Sands (E ’21) recently got his CIS 121 midterm back. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy who calculated all the ways to reconstruct his schedule after considering dropping CIS 160.

Fortunately, he stayed in 160 and completed it. Unfortunately, that meant he had to deal with CIS 121: Algorithms and Data Structures, the next juggernaut in the CIS intro sequence.

Just like last semester, Sands managed to achieve a negative score on the first midterm (still close to the median).

“I’ve never seen more inefficient algorithms ever written by a human being. Disgusting!” one of the TAs told us.

But Sands wasn’t going to throw away all the work he had put into the last homework (about 35 hours). He took it upon himself to design and write an algorithm that took into consideration his employability prospects, difficulty of future course schedules, and pride if he were to drop the course. When he told us about how it works, we were all pretty impressed. It's a shame that it didn't give him a definitive answer in the end.

“I keep on failing my unit tests, and half of the time it doesn’t even compile. So I don’t know what to do at this point,” Sands told us.

With all that said, don’t be surprised if Sands perseveres again.