CSC 458: Artificial Intelligence
Course Syllabus

Spring, 2006


Dr. Paige Meeker

Office Hours:

Anytime I’m in my office, or by appointment

Class Hours:

Monday/Wednesday 1:30-2:45


Richardson Science Building, 103B


864-833-8413 (Office)

803-749-1647 (Home) Only between 9:00am and 9:00pm, please

Email: (work) (home)

Class Web Page:

"Artificial Intelligence, a Modern Approach,” 2nd edition – S. Russell and P. Norvig


“For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.”  From “Locksley Hall,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Artificial intelligence is one of the oldest fields in Computer Science and still one of the most exciting areas of study. This course explores several major topics in artificial intelligence. These behaviors include problem solving, reasoning, planning, learning, and communicating. Artificial intelligence is actually a culmination of research from philosophy, psychology, English, mathematics, and computer science which makes the study of the intelligent agents a truly universal experience.




. . .every game of skill is susceptible of being played by an automaton – Charles Babbage.


The main objective of this course is to introduce the student to a wide variety of concepts and ideas from artificial intelligence through 1) practical programming exercises; 2) readings from the text and a variety of journals; 3) interactive intelligent agents distributed through the web and other sources; and 4) lively classroom discussions. One of the exciting aspects of this course is that there isn’t even a standard definition of Artificial Intelligence or a consensus on what makes a system intelligent. In addition, there are several conflicting approaches for creating intelligent agents. This leads to an opportunity for critical analysis of current literature and the opportunity for students to formulate their own arguments to support their view of the discipline. We will use the various components of the course to assist in the development of these ideas.

Mailing List
I may distribute important announcements via email and on the course web site. Be sure to check your email and the site frequently.

Late Policy

A deadline has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind. – “Professor Moriarty,” Character, “Star Trek, TNG,” episode title: “Ship in a Bottle”

It is very difficult for students to catch up once they have fallen behind. Consequently, late work is not accepted.  NO EXCEPTIONS. All assignments must be turned in by the start of class the day they are due. If you think you will be unable to meet a due date on an assignment, contact me in advance to negotiate an extension. If you have not negotiated an extension, then submit what you have by the due date to receive partial credit. You will receive no credit for an assignment submitted after the due date or negotiated new due date as applicable.

Grading Policy -
Attendance is expected and noted. More than 5 unexplained absences will result in the loss of one letter grade per class missed. Grading will be assigned using the standard scale. Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Homework / Programming Assignments / Quizzes 30%
  • Class Project 25%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final 25%

Quizzes may or may not be announced but if you keep up with the material and reading daily, they are not difficult. 

All work is to be done on an individual basis unless otherwise specified. Assignments are NOT team efforts. Working together to share ideas and help in trouble shooting is allowed and encouraged; however, putting your name on someone else's work is plagiarizing.

There are no make-up's allowed on any assignment, quiz, or test. If you miss a class, you are responsible for any and all material given in lecture and any homework assignment that was given.

Academic Dishonesty

All work is to be done on an individual basis, unless specified. Assignments are NOT team efforts. Working together to share ideas and help in troubleshooting is allowed and encouraged; however, putting your name on someone else's work is plagiarizing. Anyone caught plagiarizing an assignment or program or cheating on a quiz or test will receive severe penalties, dictated by the academic honor code of Presbyterian College. If you have any questions regarding what is and is not allowed, please don't hesitate to ask me.

In order to learn the concepts of this class, you are expected to do the work yourself.  Therefore, labs and the term project are to be done on your own unless otherwise specified in the assignment.  You may find it helpful (and sometimes essential) to discuss ideas with others; your professor, other professors, a lab assistant, or other classmates.  This is permissible and encouraged, but you may not use someone else’s ideas as your own.  Talking out a problem is very different from copying someone else’s project.  Turning in work that belongs to another will be considered plagiarism and there will be severe repercussions, up to and including a failing grade for the course.  If you have any questions about what is considered fair collaboration and what is not, please feel free to discuss this with the professor before committing the act.  Once an act of plagiarism or cheating has been committed, you will be punished accordingly.  Ignorance is no excuse, as you have every opportunity to discuss the matter with your professor.

In summary, because you can learn a lot by sharing ideas and approaches with others, you are encouraged to work together to think about the problems in the class. However, unless a project is specifically assigned as a group effort, you must work individually. Just as it is wrong to copy another student's math homework or copy essays for English or History (even with minor changes of your own), it is wrong to copy another student's CS project and such copies will be considered plagiarism as described above.

All assignments must therefore be pledged.  A copy of the pledge follows below:

"On my honor, I will abstain from all deceit. I will neither give nor receive unacknowledged aid in my academic work, nor will I permit such action by any member of this community. I will respect the persons and property of the community, and will not condone discourteous or dishonest treatment of these by my peers. In my every act, I will seek to maintain a high standard of honesty and truthfulness for myself and for the College."

Project Description

See the Term Project Handout

Important Dates:

You will have a midterm and a final.  The midterm will be given Wednesday, February 15th.  The final exam will be on the day scheduled by Presbyterian College, Wednesday, April 26th, 7:00pm.  Quizzes will usually be announced at least one class period before the quiz, but they may also be unannounced. 

Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but then, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower. – Alan Kay

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. – Albert Einstein

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. – Albert Einstein.

Term Project Description


Research in Artificial Intelligence spans many concepts and applications; certainly far too many for us to cover in depth during our class.  The purpose of the term project is for you to identify a particular topic that you find interesting in AI and to explore that topic fully in the literature.  The topic may be one that we discuss in class but this is not necessary.  It will be easier for you to complete the project successfully if you select a topic that interests you.


The term project will also provide you with the opportunity to engage in research activities and to share your findings with others.  These activities are essential to the development of any discipline and should be mastered by all before the completion of the course.  You will be guided through the process of research throughout the term and will be encouraged to reach small milestones within the process before the final project is due.  The class will serve as a mechanism for you to discuss ideas and interesting findings.  Questions on the final will be formulated from information distributed about the projects.


Finally, the term project may also give you more opportunities to learn the programming language Lisp or Java if you decide to incorporate a programming project into your term project.  A program is completely optional, but if chosen, the program must directly relate to the topic that is being investigated and be completely original code.  You should have adequate time to understand the basic principles behind Lisp before deciding whether to incorporate a program into your project.  In some cases, students may work in teams of 2 on the programming component of the project, but this must be approved before work begins.  But in all cases students must write individual papers about different aspects of a topic.


Points will be awarded for the following milestones:

            Journals             15

            Proposal               5

            Outline                10

            Abstract             10

            Presentation        10

            Results              100      50 points each for paper and program if appropriate




You should keep a dated journal for your project.  The entries in your journal should include bibliographic information of all AI articles, books, and websites that you have read along with a paragraph summary of the content.  These resources may or may not relate to your chosen topic.  You may also wish to use your journal for note taking and include complete details of the content.  Your journal should include a “To Do” list of tasks that you need to complete for the project and dates indicating when the task was completed.  In addition, you may want to use your journal for organizing your proposal, outline, abstract, and final paper.  Remember that I will be reading and commenting in your journals to make sure that you are on track with your topic.  The more information that you provide to me in your journal, the more I can respond to before your final paper is submitted.


You will receive 5 points for each journal submission.  Each submission should have 2-5 new bibliography entries.  I will be collecting journals on the following dates:

  1. Wednesday, January 25th 
  2. Monday, February 13th
  3. Wednesday, March 22nd


You may decide whether to use an electronic journal that you send (email) to me or an “old fashion” notebook journal which you turn in.  However, the journals are DUE at the BEGINNING of class on the above dates.  They will not be accepted late.



I want you to choose a topic as soon as possible so that you can maximize your time spent on the research.  I will collect a 1-2 paragraph proposal in which you will identify your topic area, an objective or purpose to the research that will narrow the focus of the paper, a software program component if desired, and a description of the types of resources that you have found or anticipate finding in your research.  The proposals should be submitted electronically via email by Wednesday, January 18th.



By early March you should be able to organize several major points that will support the focus of your paper.  I will collect a one page outline that will identify the major sections and subsections of your paper.  I will also collect a design of your Lisp or Java program if you are choosing to incorporate a program into your project.  The outline (and design) should be submitted electronically via email or the web by Monday, March 6th.



The purpose of an abstract is to summarize the major findings of a paper so that readers can decide whether the full paper is appropriate for their area of study.  You will post a 3-5 paragraph abstract, which will introduce your topic and objective, summarize your findings to date, and highlight any conclusions that you have reached as a result of your research.  If you are incorporating a program into your project, you will also submit any working functions of your program with the abstract.  The abstract should be emailed to me by Monday, March 27th.   If you are working on a program, you must also email me your working functions/code by this date.



We will hold a mini-conference the last few days of class to provide students the opportunity to present the results of their research.  I will try to organize papers into related topics so that we can simulate the conference atmosphere.  You should prepare a 10-12 minute presentation using electronic media and software demonstration as appropriate.  Presentation dates will be scheduled after topics have been selected and approved.



The results of your research will consist of either 1) an extended paper (at least 12 but no more than 20 double-spaced pages [not including your abstract or documentation], appropriately documented, 1 inch margins, appropriate figures allowed); or 2) a shorter paper (at least 6 but no more than 12 double-spaced pages [not including your abstract or documentation], appropriately documented, 1 inch margins, appropriate figures allowed) and a Lisp or Java Program.  Your paper should also include a title page, abstract, and bibliography.  Again, these additional pages do not count towards the maximum length of the paper and they must be complete.  I will collect papers both in printed and electronic form on Monday, April 10th and put them together into a “Conference Proceedings” for the class.