High-tech language of love on display

High-tech language of love on display

A bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates for your valentine? How about an e-valentine instead?

It's not even halfway into the semester yet, and some of the University of Illinois students enrolled in CS 125 (Introduction to Computer Science) have started playing with their newfangled programming skills by creating valentines.

The class, made up of about 125 students, including computer science majors and minors and students just curious about computer science, covers programming and computer science concepts. Students recently have been learning the programming language Java. (A recent lecture was entitled "Dangling Else and Other Conditions.")

The four-credit class includes a discussion segment, lab, online quizzes and multiple exams.

"It's a rigorous class. We work them hard," said UI lecturer Lawrence Angrave.

What else to do but offer students some more work? For fun.

"I'm always looking for ways to make computer science more interesting and engaging," Angrave said.

The challenge was to create a valentine with Java. The assignment was optional, and it would be ungraded; winners would be rewarded with some treats.

Java, Angrave said, is an industry standard. Learning Java will allow a student to be able to walk into an internship and it will prepare them for additional challenges such as learning Microsoft's .Net, the software framework for Windows computers.

A few of the students took up the challenge.

"I thought it was an interesting assignment and I'd be able to come up with something," said Prateek Arora, an aerospace engineering major who's minoring in computer science and who spent a couple hours creating his valentine.

This was his first attempt working with Java.

"I used a different programming language in high school, but the basic logic remains the same," said Arora.

His valentine shows images of roses, chocolates and hearts as well as moving text such as, "Thought I'd give you roses or maybe chocolates ... I give you my heart. .... Will you be my valentine?"

The challenging or most time-consuming part, he said, was figuring out how to center the pictures and arrange the words.

As for the cat-centric valentine created by freshman Saad Aslam, Aslam explained: "I was bored." His valentine included a picture of a cat riding an invisible bicycle. (He doesn't like cats, or pets even.) "Like I said, I was really bored," he laughed. But the exercise proved to be a good way to test his Java skills, he said.

Freshman Brock Gebhardt, who also had no experience with Java before the class, created a program in which you enter your birthday and are told your horoscope.

"A page will tell you your romantic prospects," he said. And it will suggest a few names.

Gebhardt, who doesn't have a girlfriend, said the Valentine's Day project was for all those who don't have significant others.

His match? Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas.

The project, which took about six hours to work on, has led him to additional ideas.

"I've already started next Java program that helps me study for this class," he said. The program prompts him with questions such as "What is an integer?"

"It's nice because I'm writing programs while studying," he said.

As for Angrave, he made a simple e-valentine to show his students how it could be done. It depicted an anatomical heart with the words, "You stole my heart."

He showed it to his wife and her reaction?

"She laughed."

To view some of the valentines, visit http://www.tinyurl.com/illinoisvalentine,