Computer Science

Computers and other digital technologies are extensions of the human mind and increasingly have more or less capable minds of their own.

Our computer science curriculum gives students a foundation for further work by providing them with skills in programming and digital media, including computer graphics, animation, and game development.

Another focus is understanding computers, networks, and digital media as tools for learning and creativity, and as powerful catalysts of intended and unintended social transformation. The potential and limitations of artificial intelligence, and its relationship to biological intelligence, is also a popular field of research for computer science students at Hampshire.

Student Project Titles

  • Essays on Programs as Literature
  • Solving Email Overload
  • Evolution of Perception: Automatic Programming of Visual Navigation Systems
  • Genetic Programming of Memristor Circuits
  • Parasitic Processing: Building an Installation-Free Distributed Processing Platform
  • Agent-Based Reactive Game Playing: Neural Networks and Chess
  • The Magic of Technology
  • Virtual Witches and Warlocks: Evolution of Teamwork and Strategy in a Dynamic, Heterogeneous, and Noisy 3D Environment
  • Digital Eavesdropping: Shattering Our Perception of Privacy in the New Millenium

Sample First-Year Course

What Computers Can't Do

Computers are commonly (and inconsistently) regarded as omnipotent and as stupid machines. In this course we will explore the real limits of computation from philosophical, logical, mathematical, and public policy perspectives. We begin with a discussion of the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI), covering the claims that have been made by AI scientists and the critiques of such claims that have arisen from the philosophical community. We then focus on the fundamental logic and mathematics of computation, including techniques for proving that certain problems are intractable or unsolvable. In the third part of the course we turn to social and political questions on which an enlightened view of the limits of computation can have an impact. Students will be evaluated through a combination of short papers and problem sets, along with a final project.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • Advanced Computer Animation Production
  • The Art and Science of Digital Imaging
  • Artificial Intelligence in 3D Virtual Worlds
  • Computer Animation I, II, and III
  • Computer Graphics Topics for Programmers
  • Computing Concepts: Creative Machines?
  • Genetic Programming
  • Language and Computers
  • Literary Computing
  • Minds, Brains, and Machines: The 50 Key Ideas
  • Programming Paradigms for Artificial Intelligence
  • Radical Innovation in Digital Arts
  • Research in Artificial Intelligence
  • Software Engineering
  • Unconventional Computing
  • What Computers Can't Do
  • Women in Animation

Through the Consortium

  • Algorithms (MHC)
  • Computational Geometry (SC)
  • Data Structures (MHC)
  • Energy and Power-Aware Computing (Umass)
  • Interactive Web Programming (UMass)
  • Microprocessors and Assembly Language (SC)
  • Networks and Cryptography (AC)
  • Operating Systems (MHC)
  • Parallel Algorithms and Architecture (UMass)
  • Robotics (UMass)

Facilities and Resources

The Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility
The Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility houses a high-performance Beowulf-style computer cluster called fly. Fly runs the open-source, GNU/Linux CentOS-based free clustering software, ROCKS, and it currently includes 522 processors in 37 nodes. This cluster is available to both faculty and students, and is used for many things, including evolutionary computation research, physical and biological simulations, and 3D rendering.

Hampshire's campus is wired for wireless internet, and has an e-classroom, several computer labs and media labs equipped with industry-standard software. The Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video and the Johnson Library Center house facilities for computer animation; film and video editing; and digital design. An electronic music recording studio can be found in the Music and Dance Building.

The Five College Logic Certificate Program
The Five College Logic Certificate Program, overseen by an interdisciplinary faculty committee, brings together aspects of logic from different regions of the curriculum: philosophy, mathematics, computer science, and linguistics. The program is designed to acquaint students with the uses of logic and initiate them in the profound mysteries and discoveries of modern logic. Logic is a part of every discipline. There is reasoning in every field of inquiry. There are rules behind every work of art, behind every natural language. There is inference in every intelligence, human and inhuman. Every issue of law and public policy bends to the power of logic.

The Four College Biomathematics Consortium
The Four College Biomathematics Consortium (4CBC), a collaboration between Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, is aimed at training the next generation of scientists in the rapidly emerging field of biomathematics. This consortium supports joint investigations by faculty and students into the most challenging life science research questions, using tools that span biology, mathematics, and computer science.