ITS 102.1 - Spring 2015 - Syllabus

Computers playing Jeopardy!

Course Objectives and Description

This class is about the IBM Watson project. IBM Watson is a computer system capable of answering rich natural language questions and estimating its confidence in those answers at a level of the best humans at the task. On Feb 14-16, 2011,in an televised event, Watson triumphed over the best human players of all time on the American quiz show, Jeopardy!. In this course we will discuss the main principles of natural language processing, computer representation of knowledge and discuss how Watson solved some of its answers (right and wrong).

Official course goals: to impart a strong sense of academic community, to acquaint first-year students with a full-time member of the faculty engaged in ITS-related studies, to provide students with an opportunity to engage directly with an academic topic in a small setting, and to allow for experimentation in curriculum design.


Instructor: Dr. Paul Fodor
1437 Computer Science Building
Office hours: Tuesdays 10:00AM-11:30AM&Wednesdays 8:00AM-9:30AM
Phone: (631) 632-9820
Email: pfodor (at) cs (dot) stonybrook (dot) edu

Your ITS Faculty Director: Dr. Lori Scarlatos
Your ITS College Advisor: Justine Perkowski
Your Quad Director: Steven Jubert

Class Time/Place

Learning Outcomes 


No required textbooks. We will use material from:

Grading Schema

All First-Year 102 seminars are graded on an A – C/U basis. Students will be evaluated on the basis of homework and lab work, participation in discussion of lecture materials, and interaction with faculty and other students.  The grades are posted on Blackboard:


  1.  Class Attendance & Participation: Students are expected to contribute their own ideas and to ask questions during class. Students are expected to attend all of the class sessions for the First-Year Seminar. More than 2 absences will result in an unsatisfactory grade.
  1. ITS Requirements: 
    1. All students are expected to attend a Spring Commons Day event which will focus on major and career exploration. More information will be available at
    2. The ITS End of Year Ceremony.
    3. 1 ITS event designated as an educational program
    4. 1 ITS event designated as a social program

    Students can only choose from among options offered on the ITS event website that specifically designate events as satisfying the requirements (

    ** University Scholar students are strongly encouraged to attend ITS programs, but are not required. Scholars have their own event requirement, which includes at least one Scholars (for-credit) event and one ITS (for-credit) event per semester, or two Scholars (for-credit) events.**

  1. Required Reading: before each class there will be required reading relevant to that class.
  1. Assignments: there will be short homeworks and class assignments.
  1. Spring Commons Day- All students in a Freshman 102 Seminar are required to attend a Spring Commons Day Event.  For more information about this day visit:
  1. Computer use: Students are expected to regularly check Blackboard and their e-mail account for information and correspondence with the instructor and Undergraduate Colleges.

Academic Integrity

Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary.  Faculty in the Health Sciences Center (School of Health Technology & Management, Nursing, Social Welfare, Dental Medicine) and School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures.  For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at

Americans With Disabilities Act  

If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact on your ability to carry out assigned course work, I would urge that you contact the staff i n the Disabled Student Services office (DSS), Room 128 ECC, 632-6748/TDD. DSS will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation of disability is confidential. Important: If you are planning to take exams at the DSS office, you need to tell me ahead of time for every exam.

Critical Incident Management

Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students' ability to learn.  Faculty in the HSC Schools and the School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures.

Course Evalutions

Each semester Stony Brook University asks students to provide feedback on their courses and instructors through an online course evaluation system. The course evaluation results are used by the individual faculty, department chairs and deans to help the faculty enhance their teaching skills and are used as part of the personnel decision for faculty promotion and tenure.

Stony Brook contracts with an outside vendor to administer the surveys and all results are completely anonymous. No individually identifiable data are ever reported back to the university or instructor. Students who have completed previous evaluations can view all faculty ratings at: