Applied Computing

Bachelor of Arts in Applied Computing

Applied Computing (AC) is a multidisciplinary major that allows students to become experts in integrating computer technology with a second discipline. This program is highly relevant today, as computing expertise is needed in almost every field.

This major is designed specifically to build in-depth, well-rounded knowledge as both a computing professional and in an area of specialized interest.

Second discipline options

Applied Computing students may complete their second discipline of study in several ways:

Program overview

The Applied Computing curriculum provides a base of computer science and software engineering skills on top of which you can choose your own curriculum depending on your interests. If you have been admitted to the major, you can work with a CSS academic advisor to plan out your core and elective coursework.

Course descriptions

Click the links below to read descriptions of the courses taught by the Computing & Software Systems (CSS) division of the UW Bothell School of STEM:

Where to start with computer programming

The CSS division offers a variety of beginner-friendly courses for students who want to get started with computer literacy and programming.

  • Digital Thinking: CSS 101
    • For students who want to learn about using computers to solve problems, how to represent data, and searching the internet for information.
  • Intro to Programming through Animated Storytelling: CSS 107
    • For students who want an introduction to basic programming concepts without learning a complex programming language, by creating virtual worlds, characters, games, 3D motion, and short stories. This course also counts towards the Arts & Humanities (A&H) general education requirement.
  • Intro to Cybersecurity: CSS 110
    • For students who are interested in issues such as hacking, social media, digital privacy, computer networking, wireless security, and social and ethical issues. This is not a coding course, and can be taken by itself or in combination with other introductory computing courses.
  • Computer Programming I + Skills Lab: CSS 142 + CSSSKL 142
    • For students that want to dive right into coding with a full programming language (Java). You will learn the foundations of using IDE's (integrated development environments), representing and working with different data types and operations, algorithmic thinking, and object-oriented programming concepts.
    • Limited experience sections. While CSS 142 does not have any prerequisites, students often start at very different levels of experience. All students are expected to reach the same learning goals, and some may benefit from learning with other students around the same level. Check the notes on the CSS 142 listings on the time schedule or in MyPlan to see which ones are the "limited experience" sections that we occassionally offer.

      Consider the following questions - if you answer "no" to either question, then you may want to consider taking a limited experience section of the course
      1. Have you ever written a program of any length in a text-based programming language (e.g., Java, C++, C#, Python, etc.)?
      2. Do you understand at least four of these concepts well enough to write a short program (less than 50 lines) using them?
        • Variables and values
        • Expressions
        • If statements
        • Loops
        • Nested loops
        • Arrays
        • Classes


To apply for this major, you must have completed the following courses at the UW Bothell, or their equivalents elsewhere. Visit the Applied Computing admissions page for more information on these prerequisites.

  • English Composition I: BWRIT 134
  • Advanced Writing - one of the following:
    • ​Research Writing: BWRIT 135
    • Science Methods and Practice: BES 301
    • Scientific Writing: BST 301
    • A similar advanced writing course
  • Computer Programming I and II - one of the following:
    • ​Java (recommended): CSS 142 and 143
    • C++: CSS 132 and 133
    • Important: You must also take the required "CSSSKL" skills labs together with these lectures, but they are not themselves prerequisites for entry into the Applied Computing major.
  • Calculus I: STMATH 124

Course information

Core courses

Applied Computing core courses focus on the skills you need for working in a technical business environment. You must fulfill all of the following core requirements:

  • Statistics - one of the following:
  • Technical Writing for Computing Professionals: CSS 301
  • Data Structures and Algorithms - one of the following:
    • Applied Algorithmics: CSS 340
    • Advanced Data Structures, Algorithms, and Discrete Mathematics I: CSS 342
  • Business management - one of the following:
    • Management for Computing Professionals: CSS 350
    • Organizational Behavior, Ethics, and Inclusivity: BBUS 300; only if doing Business Administration minor
  • Software Engineering: CSS 360
  • Hardware and Operating Systems: CSS 421
  • Applied Computing Capstone: CSS 496

Elective & second discipline courses

When considering options for your elective and secondary discipline courses, you should reflect on the type of work you are interested in pursuing after graduation. You must fulfill all of the following elective requirements:

  • General Education Electives
    • At least 15 credits of Arts and Humanities (A&H)
    • At least 15 credits of Social Sciences (SSc)
    • At least 3 credits of Diversity (DIV); often also counts for SSc or A&H
    • These courses can overlap with the other elective requirements of the major, below.
  • CSS-prefix Electives (25 credits total)
    • At least 10 credits at 400-level
    • At least 5 more credits at 300-level or higher
    • At least 10 more credits at 200-level or higher
    • Maximum 15 total credits of CSS 397/495/498/499 (Internship / Independent Study / Research)
    • Maximum 10 total credits of CSS 290/390/490 (Special Topics)
  • Second Discipline Courses (25 credits total, or more)
    • At least 15 credits at 300-level or higher
    • At least 10 more credits at 100-level or higher
    • Additional credits as needed if completing a minor or second major
  • Upper Level General Electives (10 credits total)
    • At least 10 credits at 300-level or higher in any subject area
    • Additional 300-level or higher credits for the Second Discipline beyond the 25-credit minimum can count towards this requirement.

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Applied Computing capstone

As an Applied Computing student, you must complete a final project, the Applied Computing Capstone (CSS 496). In this project you will integrate your computing skills with the skills you learned in your chosen Second Discipline of study. The capstone project provides you the momentum you'll need to kickstart your career!

When should I start preparing?

Read this entire section at least two quarters before you plan to take CSS 496 so that you are adequately prepared.

CSS 496 is offered:

  • ALWAYS in autumn and spring
  • USUALLY in winter
  • NEVER in summer

What are the prerequisites for the course?

Before taking your CSS 496 capstone, you must complete the following:

  • Technical Writing: CSS 301
  • One of:
    • Applied Algorithmics: CSS 340
    • Advanced Data Structures, Algorithms, and Discrete Mathematics I: CSS 342
  • Software Engineering: CSS 360
  • Hardware and Operating Systems: CSS 421
  • At least three courses from your Second Disipline
  • Attend at least one CSS Capstone Colloquium from start to finish

How do I register?

Visit the CSS registration page and submit a CSS Registration Request for the quarter you want to take the course. Be prepared with a list of the Second Discipline courses you have taken in preparation for the capstone.

What is the course about?

CSS 496 provides a capstone experience for Applied Computing majors. The course is designed to integrate your secondary education with your computer science education in a relevant way. The goal is to transition from being in a student/teacher relationship to becoming an expert in your field of study by practicing what it’s like to have a job and be working in it every day.

Unlike a typical course that gives you reading, assignments, quizzes, papers, or exams, this course is self-constructed.

CSS 496 cannot be an internship. If you have found a computer science job and want to get academic credit for what you learn on the job, then use CSS 397 (Computing Internship) and/or CSS 495 (Applied Computing Internship).

How is the course structured?

Rather than your instructor defining your work, YOU create bounds around your capstone experience in which you combine your CSS education (core + electives), second discipline (2nd major, minor, concentration), and your passion (where you’ll go after you graduate, what your first job will be). Your instructor will assist you with keeping the scope of your project within a single quarter.

YOU define the parameters of the course in your capstone contract, which includes:

  • Project definition
  • Breakdown of project into discrete tasks
  • Scheduling completion of all task(s)
  • Whether you will work alone or in a group, and who will be in your group
  • When you will schedule check-ins with your instructor and your expert consultant
  • What grade you want to receive based on the course’s specification grading model

You will demonstrate the results of your capstone experience in all the following ways:

  • Project plus progress artifacts
  • Writing (reflections and artifacts)
  • Poster
  • Participation in a panel at the STEM Colloquium

On the time schedule, the course is scheduled for two days per week or as 50% hybrid course, but most of the work is independent and you will not attend every class meeting.

What are the learning objectives?

  1. Integrate computing with specialty area knowledge through research and/or applied project work, including gaining new knowledge and skills as appropriate
    • Identify work that connects computing and specialty knowledge
    • Perform work that improves depth and breadth of knowledge and skills related computing and specialty areas
    • Incorporate best practices and knowledge in accomplishing work
  2. Communicate about computing and specialty area topics to different audiences
    • Communicate with different audiences: management, experts, peer, public
    • Engage in discussions, including those providing feedback
  3. Independently manage and report work efforts in a professional manner
    • Use time management to plan, estimate, and control work
    • Write reports that effectively communicate state of work and embody self-reflection to improve work performance
    • Meet periodically with management/mentors to discuss progress and receive feedback
    • Show responsiveness to critique, feedback, and self-evaluation to altering work direction and approach
  4. Prepare for a post-education career, including communicating about these expertise, skills, and experience
    • Identify jobs/roles and associated organizations of interest
    • Map knowledge, skills, and experience to job descriptions/job roles
    • Justifying ability to succeed based on expertise and work experience

How is the course graded?

This class uses a specifications grading method where your grade is determined by completion of the assignments and activities for this class. You decide what grade you want and then perform all tasks within that grade’s column on the grade table. If you meet some but not all tasks in your target grade’s column, your final grade will instead be averaged.

Note: The table below is an example. Specific scoring criteria may vary for your instance of the course. 

Sample specifications grading rubric
GRADE 2.0 3.0 4.0
Meeting with instructor Two Three Four or more
Meeting with experts One Two or more
Interactions with stakeholders One Two or more
Meeting with librarian One One or more + survey
Participation 10+ points 30+ points 50 points
Career preparation 10+ points 30+ points 50 points
Capstone contract plan 25+ points 30+ points 40+ points
Capstone paper (including appendices) Draft 1 or Draft 2 AND Final Report >= 50 Draft 1 or Draft 2 AND Final Report >= 75 Draft 1 or Draft 2 AND Final Report >= 90
Weekly status reports Four (at least one every two weeks) Six Eight or more
Colloquium Poster 50+ points AND participate in panel Poster 75+ points, participate in panel, AND generate questions for panels Poster 75+ points, participate in panel, generate questions for panels, AND moderate a panel


What can I do before the first day of class?

This section offers suggestions on how to think about what you want to do before the first day of CSS 496 and to start defining your capstone experience. Planning for your capstone takes time – expect this process to take several hours or more. Review and refine your responses periodically to arrive at your best project idea.

  1. Brainstorm what you’ve learned and are interested in doing, but do not actually start the project before the course begins.Venn Diagram of three circles saying "CSS education" "Second Discipline Education" and "Passion (aspiration for first job)" and where the circles intersect, an arrow pointing to it with the text "what lives here?"
    • Think deeply about your computer science education, second discipline of study, and your own passions.
    • Brainstorm about how these intersect to discover what lives in the center. Come up with multiple possible ideas.
    • Think about how these ideas could help position you for your first job after graduating.
    • Think about how you will keep yourself motivated at every step along the way to complete the project.
    • Narrow down the ideas to get your top three.
    • Note: Be sure that this work will be unique. You can NOT use assignments from a previous course as your capstone, but you CAN build on assignments from previous courses. If you are unsure if the work is appropriate or not, contact the instructor for the CSS 496 course to discuss your ideas.
  2. Consider the following to determine whether you want work alone or with others.
    • How big are your scope and goals? With more people, more is possible (bigger scope).
    • Can their second discipline add to the project in an interesting way?
    • Do you know someone(s) you’d like to work with?
      • Someone else in Applied Computing or another computer science major (CSSE at Bothell campus, CSE or INFO at Seattle campus, TCSS or TINFO at Tacoma campus)
      • Someone you’ve met while taking courses in your second discipline
      • Someone in another STEM major (Biology, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Interactive Media Design, etc.)
    • With larger groups, consider who will be the project manager.
  3. Consider who might be your expert consultant.
    • You need to identify someone who has experience in your project’s scope and can take the time to guide your plan and review your results. This person could be a faculty member or professional in the industry to which your project is related. They CANNOT be your CSS 496 instructor, friend, or family member.
    • As you search for this person, you can use the following bullets to explain to them what their role would be as your expert consultant:
      • Meet together 1, 2, or more times (see specifications grading table)
      • Review your capstone plan for relevance, feasibility, scope, solution
      • May assist during project work for problem solving, feedback, scope re-definition, etc.
      • Review final project for feedback
      • Answer a google questionnaire for the instructor regarding your meetings’ content
      • Requires at least 3 or more hours of their time over the course of about 10 weeks

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