CS students – what happened to them?

I was just enlightened to a very sad experience within the last hour. A final year undergraduate Computer Science (CS) student was preparing for his final project presentation. For those who are not familiar, at the end of the 4-year course the undergraduates are supposed to give a technical presentation on their project. The idea, I suppose is that after about 2 or 3+ years of education, they are given a ‘real world’ project and evaluated on how they accomplished it.

Sounds beneficial – in theory.

The student in question did his work in Java. Nothing wrong there. I find it a worthwhile language, especially when you want to debug the program. His development workflow consisted of editing a few text files and running a batch file. The contents of said file are as follows,

javac *.java MainProgram
java MainProgram

I could be mistaken on the last line. But the point I want to make is how the batch file is structured. Basically, you just call the java compiler and ask it to make the java binary. (Or is it called Java IL?) Then, pass the same file to the Java Runtime Environment to run the code. Simple right?

Well, what I found appalling is that the student had no idea how all this worked. He was sitting on another computer and was having trouble running his program. I just passed by and he asked for my help. You know what he was doing? Attempting to run the batch file!

Why the heck to do even want to recompile the program again?

I took pity on him and told him to stop what he was doing. Then, I went to the Java mainpage and downloaded the needed JVM for the system. After that, I showed him how to execute his application from the command line without doing a recompile.

He was grateful for the help.

I found the whole situation to be just SAD. This is the state of a CS degree student these days?

Oh dear. Now he’s come by again to ask some help with networking. I asked if he tried disabling the firewalls on both systems. Nope.


Forget it. I’m not getting anymore involved in this. If anyone has any bright ideas on how we could reform our education system to address these kind of issues, please contact me. I could use some inspiration.