Students Report Repetitive Stress Injury After Problem Set

* Students given three weeks for assignment, TF says

A recent assignment in Computer Sciences 50: "Introduction to Computer Sciences I" strained more than just the minds of some students.

Several students in CS 50 said they developed Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) after completing the most recent weekly assignment for the class, which was due last week.

A sophomore enrolled in the course, who asked to remain anonymous, said she developed RSI after spending about 45 to 60 hours working on the eighth assignment for the course.

"This was a new assignment, but it took a lot of time," she said. "I got RSI shortly after I finished it."

Alan F. Abola '98, one of the two head teaching fellows (TFs) for CS 50 and a CS concentrator, said the assignment required a lot of typing but noted that this was true of the eighth assignments in past years.


"[Assignment eight] involves a lot of typing and it would have involved a lot of debugging as well," he said. "[The work is] a lot heavier from the other assignments from earlier in the year."

But Abola said the difficulty of the assignment was balanced with the fact that students were given almost three weeks to work on it.

"It was a little bit more intensive," Abola said. "We gave them more time than on the other assignments."

But another sophomore in the class, who also said she developed RSI from the assignment and asked to remain anonymous, said the extra time was not sufficient to finish the program.

"It was a very long assignment--I watched people hand it in and it was just stacks of pages," she said. "I worked on it for like 45 hours...[and I] didn't finish it."

She added that the assignment was distributed right before Thanksgiving break. But the student said that because it is difficult to complete CS assignments without the guidance of a TF, she was unable to complete the project over the short vacation.

"You need a TF to help you when you get stuck," she said. "You just kind of have to work until it's done. You can't spread it out that easily."

Jon H. Grenzke '98, who is the other head TF for CS 50, acknowledged that assignment eight was time-consuming, he said he believed it was possible to spread out the work enough so that students did not harm themselves.

"I think it's certainly doable to spread it out so you don't do yourself harm," he said.

Grenzke, who is an applied math and economics concentrator, added that

assignment eight was much shorter than assignments that students in upper-level computer science courses must complete.