PSU CS 441/541: Artificial Intelligence

Fall 2019

Instructor: Bart Massey <>
TA: Abhijay Ghildyal <>
Time: Monday/Wednesday 16:40-18:30 (4:40-6:30 PM)
Meeting Location: EB 93
CRN: 10936 (441), 10956 (541)

As always, this is a tentative syllabus. Everything here is subject to vast change with little notice.

About This Course

CS 441/541 is a first course in artificial intelligence. The fluent ability to write programs and a strong understanding of computing are necessary prerequisites: students must have previously completed PSU CS 202 (Programming Systems) and CS 311 (Discrete Math) or equivalent, as well as their prerequisites. Prior completion of CS 300 (Software Engineering) and CS 350 (Algorithms) is not prerequisite, but is highly recommended.

Course Description

This course is intended to familiarize students with the recognized techniques of modern artificial intelligence. In particular, it is intended that students will be able to construct real-world programs utilizing these techniques, as well as be able to identify appropriate techniques for novel situations. This is a survey course; there are a variety of other courses in artificial intelligence at PSU and elsewhere that take individual topics from the course to greater depth.

Course Goals

The catalog says the course goals are for students to be able to:

  1. Describe several real-world applications of AI.
  2. Describe and implement AI search techniques for heuristic problem-solving and game playing, and describe their strengths and limitations.
  3. Describe and implement various AI knowledge-representation techniques.
  4. Design software agents that use Bayesian techniques to learn and reason under uncertainty.
  5. Design software agents that use reinforcement learning techniques.
  6. Design simple genetic algorithms.
  7. Describe some of the major approaches to current-day research on natural-language processing, computer vision, analogy-making, and robotics.
  8. Summarize major philosophical and ethical questions regarding AI.

Course Mechanics

This course will proceed via lectures and project-oriented homework.


The course website (see above) will be the focus of communication. Students are encouraged to contact the instructor anytime by email for an appointment if there are things that seem worth discussing. Special and/or regular office hours will be instituted if demand warrants.

Course chat will be through the pdx-cs Slack channel #cs541-f2019. Please be subscribed to that channel (using your Odin / pdx username and password) to get updates and ask questions.


The course lectures will cover a variety of topics, and may include guest lectures. Please attend them all; they are required and should be useful.


The course textbook

Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (3rd ed.)
Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig
Prentice Hall 2009
is available at the bookstore. It is quite expensive, but should serve as a valuable reference for the rest of your career. If you must, you may instead find a used second edition somewhere: the content is not that different. I will, however, be assuming everyone has the third edition.

There may be additional readings as the course progresses.


The coursework will consist of regular readings, as well as several programming projects.

441 vs 541

The graduate students taking CS 541 will have additional requirements for some of their projects. All students, graduate and undergraduate, will be expected to be able to attend lecture during the entire class period.


Currently, the CS laboratory facilities consist of machines in the Linux Lab and Windows Lab. However, work may be done on any of the Departmental boxes remotely. Those with home or laptop boxes are encouraged to use them—make sure they're adequately backed up, though.


Projects and assignments will be graded for having been turned in and having made a solid effort, as well as for being substantially correct and of high quality.

You may submit a homework as many times as you like, with the latest assignment received being the only one considered for a grade. Please submit something before the deadline, even if it is only your name — you can then continue to work on your assignment as desired up until it is graded.

It is important that every assigned activity be attempted before the deadline, acting in good faith. A score of zero on any project will result in a grade of F for the course.

Academic Honesty

Cheating on homework or the project will result in a grade of zero on the affected material, and will be reported to appropriate authorities. Plagiarism is a form of cheating. Please do not let me catch you plagiarizing.

Plagiarism: n 1: a piece of writing/work that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own.

If you use code, ideas, or text authored by someone else, cite them. It is OK to get help from external sources of knowledge, but citation is mandatory.

Safe Space

PSU and your instructor are committed to providing a safe and effective learning space for people of all races and ethnicities, genders and gender roles, religious beliefs, physical abilities, etc. Students in this course must conduct themselves collegially and professionally. Bigotry or uncivility of any type will not be tolerated: this behavior will result in removal from the course and reporting to the appropriate authorities at PSU.

Access and Inclusion for Students with Disabilities

PSU values diversity and inclusion; we are committed to fostering mutual respect and full participation for all students. My goal is to create a learning environment that is equitable, useable, inclusive, and welcoming. If any aspects of instruction or course design result in barriers to your inclusion or learning, please notify me. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) provides reasonable accommodations for students who encounter barriers in the learning environment.

If you have, or think you may have, a disability that may affect your work in this class and feel you need accommodations, contact the Disability Resource Center to schedule an appointment and initiate a conversation about reasonable accommodations. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, 503-725-4150,,

If you already have accommodations, please contact me to make sure that I have received a faculty notification letter and discuss your accommodations. Students who need accommodations for tests and quizzes are expected to schedule their tests to overlap with the time the class is taking the test.

For information about emergency preparedness, please go to the Fire and Life Safety webpage for information.

Discrimination and Harrassment; Mandatory Reporting

Portland State is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment (sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, gender or sex-based harassment and stalking). If you have experienced any form of gender or sex-based discrimination or sexual harassment, know that help and support are available. PSU has staff members trained to support survivors in navigating campus life, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and on-housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and more. Information about PSU’s support services on campus, including confidential services and reporting options, can be found on PSU’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response website at You may call a Confidential Advocate at 503-725-5672 or by scheduling on-line: You may also report any incident of discrimination or discriminatory harassment, including sexual harassment, to either the Office of Equity and Compliance or the Office of the Dean of Student Life.

Please be aware that all PSU faculty members and instructors are required to report information of an incident that may constitute prohibited discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. This means that if you tell me about a situation of sexual harassment or sexual violence that may have violated university policy or student code of conduct, I have to share the information with my supervisor, the University’s Title IX Coordinator or the Office of the Dean of Student Life. For more information about these matters that include Title IX, please complete the required student module Creating a Safe Campus in your D2L.

Last modified: Monday, 30 September 2019, 3:59 PM