Computer Science

There’s more to computer science than ones and zeroes. At its heart is creative application of interdisciplinary understandings to solve problems or fill needs. Facebook is programming applied to enhance social connections. Angry Birds is the gamification of real-world physics. Everything in your digital world was programmed using computer science concepts. Come learn how to make that world even better.

If none of our computer science course offerings work for you, there are alternative ways to study computer science:

  • Riverdale has partnered with Thinkful.com to offer students independent study for Riverdale credit in front-end web design, iOS, Rails, and Python programming. These options are for students who already have a strong background in technology and are willing to do a six-hour (approximately) commitment a week, on top of one's regular course load.
  • We offer a coding summer program through Project Knowmad.
  • We teach mini-courses on Raspberry Pi, web design, coding, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
  • Our co-curricular offerings include robotics clubs in the Middle and Upper Schools, and a programming club.

Level I: Computer Science: Object-Oriented Programming (yearlong)

Computer Science: Object-Oriented Programming

There's more to computer science than ones and zeroes. This Level I yearlong course is an introduction to computer science terms, skills, and understandings, and is a foundation for future work in this discipline. In this class students will learn programming methodology, algorithm analysis, data structures, and abstraction to make amazing projects. The first quarter utilizes a graphical/block programming environment to allow for learning of fundamental computer science concepts such as variable and expressions, user interactivity, conditional statements, and looping constructs. In the following quarters, students will learn text programming languages of Processing, Java, and, Python. Using these languages students will explore concepts of object-oriented programming such as classes, constructors, methods, and inheritance. Simple data structures such as arrays are also covered. Each unit will culminate with an application of learned computer science concepts.

Note: This course may be taken by students in any grade level. No prior computer science experience necessary.

Level I: Computer Science: Game Design with C# (yearlong)

Computer Science: Game Design with C#

This Level I yearlong course is an introduction to computer science terms, skills, and understandings, and is a foundation for future work in this discipline through the lens of game design. The course introduces students to the principles of game design and development as well as fundamentals of programming methodology. Students will have the opportunity to create game content using the Unity Development Platform and will learn about elements of game design including user interaction, world and object creation, lighting, game physics, and scripting. Students will also utilize the C# programming language to script for their game projects. Using C#, students will explore concepts of object-oriented programming such as classes, constructors, methods, and inheritance as well as data structures such as arrays and lists. Throughout the course, students will design and build several projects in Unity for 2D, 3D, and virtual reality.

Note: This course may be taken by students in any grade level. No prior computer science experience necessary.

Level II: Advanced Computer Science (yearlong)

Advanced Computer Science

Prerequisite: Two semesters of Level I experience or permission from the department, successful completion of CS I placement exam, and submission portfolio of work.

This Level II, yearlong course will cover common ways to organize and store data in computer science, why those structures are important, and what projects can be created with those structures. Classes, lists, linked lists, stacks, and queues will all be covered early in the course. These topics will lead into algorithm efficiency and an introduction to Big O notation. Students will then learn recursive algorithms and searching through an introduction to Tree data structure and Hash Tables. Finally, students are introduced to sorting algorithms and graphs. After gaining an understanding of these fundamentals, students will have the opportunity to work on projects of their choosing.

Level II: iOS App Development with Swift/XCode (yearlong)

iOS App Development with Swift/XCode

Prerequisite: Two semesters of Level I experience or permission from the department, successful completion of CS I placement exam, and submission portfolio of work.

App Development with Swift is designed to teach you the skills needed to be an app developer capable of bringing your own apps to life. In this Level II, yearlong course you will learn advanced programming concepts using Swift, use iOS development tools such as XCode and Swift Playgrounds, as well as utilize industry best practices. By the end of the course, you will be able to understand, recreate, and apply many of the features and components seen in popular iOS applications and extend your knowledge to create apps of your own. The course takes a hands on approach building several apps to reinforce learning and applications of concepts. At the end of every unit, you will demonstrate understanding and application of topics learned through the creation of mini projects and testing code with Swift Playgrounds. At the end of the course, you will create an app of your choice that incorporates the concepts learned throughout the course.

Level III: Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (yearlong)

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

Prerequisite: Completion of a yearlong Level II course or with permission from the CS Department with portfolio of previous computer science work.

What does it mean for a machine to think? From IBM's Jeopardy-winning computer, Watson, to their amazing chess-playing program, Deep Blue, it often seems like machines can be more intelligent than humans. In this Level III, yearlong course students will learn how to write programs that use Big Data to predict, strategize, reason, plan, and evolve. You may have written amazing programs before, but you've never written one that knows more than you do.

Level III: Computer Graphics and Systems (yearlong)

Computer Graphics and Systems

Prerequisite: Completion of a yearlong Level II course or with permission from the CS Department with portfolio of previous computer science work.

In this Level III, yearlong course students will discover what goes on "under the hood" of their computers, and use that knowledge to create realistic 2D and 3D graphics from the ground up. Students will learn how they, as programmers, interact with the architecture and operating system of the computer, and learn a language, C++, that will give them control over how they do so. Students will examine the various phases of the graphics pipeline that together create the stunning graphics we see in our favorite films and video games. Some of these phases include lighting, projection, transformation, rasterization (division into pixels), and shading. Graphics projects will be created using C++ with the OpenGL API.

CS Capstone Developer Project (yearlong)

CS Capstone Developer Project

Prerequisite:  Written topic proposal from student. Recommended for seniors but may be taken by juniors with department approval.

This yearlong course will expand Computer Science knowledge and understandings by applying them to solve real problems through developing authentic programming scenarios. In CS Capstone, students will create a meaningful and socially-relevant projects that educate and inform an audience. Students have the option to continue developing their project after graduation from Riverdale. Possible areas of exploration include database and web development, game design, app or application design, virtualization in 2D or 3D, app development, AI, and many others. You will also have the opportunity to work with area developers, programmers, and experts to help refine your product. The year culminates with a public presentation and launch of the class's project.

In CS Capstone, students will learn how to learn computer science with self-direction and self-sufficiency in order to learn languages and develop programming skills as they become necessary. Students will also learn to be excellent collaborators and communicators within teams that develop projects together.

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