Course 6 curriculum revisions presented by education officers

Fall 2022 curricula changes to be accompanied by subject renumbering

The subject numbers used in this article reflect the numbering changes for Fall 2022 described in this article. The previous subject numbers are denoted in parentheses.

The electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) department held a presentation May 3 from 4–5 p.m. in 26-100 to introduce new/revised curricula for the electrical engineering and computer science (6-2), computer science and engineering (6-3), and the artificial intelligence and decision-making (6-4) majors. In addition to the revised curricula, the EECS department is renumbering its subjects beginning Fall 2022.

Joel Voldman PhD ’01, faculty head of electrical engineering, presented changes to the 6-2 curriculum. The new curriculum eliminates the introductory subject requirement which was previously satisfied by one of 6.9080 (Introduction to EECS via Robotics, previously 6.01), 6.3400 (Introduction to EECS via Communication Networks, previously 6.02), 6.4900 (Introduction to EECS via Medical Technology, previously 6.03), or 6.9019 (Introduction to EECS via Interconnected Embedded Systems, previously 6.08). 

Instead, the components of the major include four fundamental subjects, two math subjects, four system design subjects, one communicative-intensive (CI-M) subject, and five elective subjects. Students must take at least one additional CI-M subject and one project-based design laboratory subject as part of their required subjects.

The major’s fundamental subjects include an introductory programming course (some variant of 6.100 [Introduction to Computer Science Programming in Python, previously 6.0001]), a discrete mathematics course (some variation of 6.1200 [Mathematics for Computer Science, previously 6.042]), an introductory algorithms course (6.1210 [Introduction to Algorithms, previously 6.006]), and an introductory programming course in the C and assembly languages (6.1900 [Introduction to Low-level Programming in C and Assembly, previously 6.0004]).

The system design component includes 6.190 (Computation Structures, previously 6.004), 6.2000 (Electrical Circuits: Modeling and Design of Physical Systems, previously 6.002), 6.3100 (Dynamical System Modeling and Control Design, previously 6.302), and 6.9000 (Engineering for Impact, previously 6.010). 

For its math component, the curriculum no longer requires 18.03 (Differential Equations) and requires one linear algebra and one statistics course instead. To account for the removal of the differential equations requirement, 6.2000 and 6.3100 will be revised to include differential equations material in context. 

The five elective subjects for the new 6-2 curriculum can be satisfied by two subjects from each of two electrical engineering tracks (comprising four subjects) and one additional subject from the EECS elective list. Students may choose from 12 possible tracks, including quantum systems engineering, energy systems, architecture, and hardware design.

Rob Miller MEng ’95, education officer for 6-3, presented changes to the 6-3 curriculum, which also no longer requires an introductory subject (previously satisfied by one of 6.9080, 6.3400, 6.4900, 6.9010). 

Similar to its old curriculum, the new 6-3 curriculum requires programming skills subjects, one discrete math subject (6.1200, previously 6.042), and three foundation subjects. In addition to an introductory Python course (some variation of 6.100, previously 6.0001), the new requirements include an introductory programming course in the C and assembly languages (satisfied by 6.1900, previously 6.0004). The three foundation subjects remain the same: 6.1010 (Fundamentals of Programming, previously 6.009), 6.1210 (previously 6.006), and 6.1910 (previously 6.004).

The new curriculum removes one header subject by no longer requiring one of 6.4100 (Artificial Intelligence, previously 6.0134) or 6.3900 (Introduction to Machine Learning, previously 6.036) to avoid overlap with the 6-4 major. The three header subjects, which remain the same from the old curriculum, are 6.1020 (Elements of Software Construction, previously 6.031), 6.1800 (Computer Systems Engineering, previously 6.033), and one of 6.1400 (Computability and Complexity Theory, previously 6.045) or 6.1220 (Design and Analysis of Algorithms, previously 6.046).

The new 6-3 curriculum also includes one CI-M subject and five elective subjects. The five electives can be satisfied by two subjects from one computer science track and one of any Course 6 track, along with one additional subject from the EECS elective list. 

Both the 6-2 and 6-3 CI-M subject requirements can be satisfied by either 6.UAT (Oral Communication) or 6.UAR (Seminar in Undergraduate Advanced Research). 

Students already majoring in 6-2 or 6-3 or planning to switch to one of the two majors may choose to satisfy either the old or new requirements, but new students arriving in Fall 2022 and later must satisfy the new requirements.

Leslie Kaelbling, education officer for 6-4, presented the curriculum for the new major, which was approved at the April faculty meeting and will be available for students to declare next fall.

The 6-4 curriculum requirements include some variation of 6.100 (previously 6.0001), three math subjects (one discrete math, one linear algebra, and one statistics), and two foundation subjects (6.1010, previously 6.009 and 6.1210, previously 6.006). The requirements also include five center subjects, one each from the data-centric, model-centric, decision-centric, computation-centric, and human-centric subject lists. 

Additionally, the requirements include two CI-M subjects (one of 6.UAT or 6.UAR and an additional CI-M) and two elective subjects (one from the list of advanced undergraduate subjects for 6.4 students or a 6-4 CI-M and one from the EECS elective list or from the Course 18 requirements)

At least one of the subjects taken by 6-4 students must be from the societal and ethical responsibilities of computing subject list.

The full list of old and new requirements for the majors, including additional details on the subjects satisfying the requirements, can be found at the EECS website.

The presentation was followed by a question and answer session moderated by EECS undergraduate officer Katrina LaCurts.

LaCurts asked Voldman, Miller, and Kaelbling how a prospective student could approach choosing between 6-2, 6-3, and 6-4.

Miller recommended that students take introductory courses covering several disciplines, such as 6.1010 (previously 6.009), 6.1210 (previously 6.006), or 6.1900 (previously 6.0004), that could contribute to the requirements for any of the three majors.

Kaelbling added to Miller’s response by describing these classes as “diagnostic of what [students] are interested in” and noting that the “lowest level” of courses for the majors is “quite shared.”

When asked about potential changes to the 6-1 major, Voldman said that the department had not yet decided what to do with 6-1 and that “it’s a conversation” the department will be having “over the coming year.”

With the introduction of the 6-4 major and the curricula restructuring, the EECS department will also renumber its subjects to account for its three parts (electrical engineering, computer science, and artificial intelligence and decision-making) with a consistent scheme. 

The main changes include changing all 3-digit numbers to 4-digit numbers.

Most of the new numbers take the form 6.xxx0. The department website writes that when talking about the subjects out loud, speakers should “ignore the trailing zero and just read the first three digits as significant.” The trailing 0 exists to distinguish between old and new numbers. 

Subjects with numbers from 6.1xxx–6.4xxx are introductory and undergraduate subjects, and subjects with numbers from 6.5xxx–6.8xxx are graduate or advanced undergraduate subjects.

Subjects with the form 6.xxx1 or 6.xxx2 are variants of the base subject 6.xxx0, with 6.xxx1 denoting the undergraduate variant of a graduate-level base subject and 6.xxx2 denoting the graduate variant of an undergraduate-level base subject. Additionally, some subjects end with A, B, or L, denoting submodules lasting for the first or second halves of the semester. 

Lettered subjects such as 6.UAT, 6.UAR, and 6.THM remain unchanged.