EECS16A, Designing Information Devices and Systems I

Fall 2021


Grade Breakdown

Our objective is to help you become the best engineer you can be, and grades are not everything. The various components of the class -- homework, labs and exams -- are designed explicitly with this in mind. Every challenge is a growth opportunity. You will have the opportunity to gain points in the course through completing your homework and attending labs as well as through the exams.

This course is not graded on a curve. We will set absolute thresholds for performance that will map to grade boundaries. We encourage you to discuss the course material with each other and teach each other new ideas and concepts that you learn. Here is the breakdown for grading for this class:

Category Points (out of 300)
Participation 10 points
Homework 45 points
Labs 45 points
Quest 15 points
Midterm 1 45 points
Midterm 2 45 points
Final 95 points

Notice that you can get many points by being regular with your homework and the labs. Our goal is to help you learn the material as best as possible!

Grading Scale

This course is not curved. We define the following grading scale (in percentages):

A [93+) A- [90+)
B+ [84+) B [75+) B- [68+)
C+ [65+) C [62+) C- [58+)
D+ [57+) D [55+) D- [53+)
F [0-, 53)
In the rare event that the instructors deem that a change needs to be made for a given exam, then we may adjust the grade boundaries for that exam and let you know how you are doing in the course grade-wise.

Exam Clobber Policy

This course spans a fairly broad set of ideas and concepts within a short period of time, and hence sustained and consistent effort and investment are critical to your success in this class.

To give students a ‘second chance’, we will provide the opportunity to clobber a midterm to students who complete an optional midterm redo.

For each midterm, if you complete the midterm redo, we will replace your corresponding midterm score with your scaled score on the final exam if it would help your grade.

We will also provide the opportunity to clobber your quest score with the score from the first midterm if you complete an optional quest redo. If you complete the quest redo, we will replace your quest score with your scaled score on Midterm 1, if it would help your grade. However, if you choose to clobber both the quest and Midterm 1, we will use your original (unclobbered) Midterm 1 score to clobber the quest.

Homework Party (HW) and Office Hours (OH)

Homework parties (managed through this queue) are your chance to meet and interact with other students, while also having the chance to get help from GSIs, tutors, and faculty. We expect students to treat each other with respect during homework parties as well as during all other parts of the class, including interactions on Piazza, discussion, and office hours (at Remember that each of you is coming into a class with different experiences and backgrounds -- use this as an opportunity to learn from one another.

Wednesdays 9-11AM and Fridays 8-10AM PT, HW Party will be held in Wozniak Lounge (430-438 Soda Hall). Attending homework party is highly encouraged and is a great way to find a study group! Students are expected to help each other out, and if desired, form ad-hoc "pickup" homework groups in the style of a pickup basketball game. This year, homework parties will be hosted online.

Office Hours will be held almost every day, as annotated on the course Google calendar. You can come to office hours with your study groups, or by yourself -- there will be one or more TAs there to help you work through the concepts or the homework!

All homework parties and office hours will be available both virtually and in-person. To get help, you can either come to the room where office hours are being hosted (as indicated on the calendar) or attend via Zoom. Whether you attend in-person or remotely, you should submit a help request through the online queue.

OH and HW Party Walkthrough (Fa21!)

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Homework Submission

Homeworks are due on Friday night at 11:59 PM Pacific Time (PT). You need to turn in a .pdf file consisting of your written-up solutions that also includes an attached pdf "printout" of your .ipynb code on Gradescope. In addition, Gradescope has an option to associate pages of your work to each homework problem. You must select the relevant pages for every problem. Any homework submissions that are turned in without the code “printout” (or screenshot) attached will receive a zero on the coded ipython notebook portions of the homework. Any problems without pages selected will receive zero credit. If you have any questions about the format of a homework submission, please go to office hours or homework party. Additionally, we will provide HW accommodations for students who have letters of accommodations from DSP services and will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

You will have the opportunity to resubmit your homework after homework solutions are released to get makeup credit. See below for details.

Homework Grading – Self-Grading

The point of homework in this class is for you to learn the material. To help you in doing this, you will both grade your own homework and be graded by 16A readers. After the HW deadline, official solutions will be posted online. You will then be expected to read them and enter your own scores and comments for every part of every problem in the homework on a simple coarse scale.

Score Reason
0 Didn't attempt or very wrong
2 Got started and made some progress, but went off in the wrong direction or with no clear direction
5 Right direction and got half-way there
8 Mostly right but a minor thing missing or wrong
10 100% correct

Note: You must justify self-grades of 2, 5 or 8 with a comment. Grades of 0 and 10 do not need to be justified. If you are really confused about how to grade a particular problem, you should post on Piazza. This is not supposed to be a stressful process.

Your self-grades will be due on the Monday following the homework deadline at 11:59 PM sharp. (For example: Homework 0 is due on Friday 8/27 at 11:59 PM. The following Monday, 8/30, at 11:59 PM, your Homework 0 self-grades will be due.)

Your self-grades will be due on the Monday following the homework deadline at 11:59 PM sharp. We will accept late self-grades up to a week after the original homework deadline for 75% credit on the associated homework assignment. If you don't enter a proper grade by this deadline, you are giving yourself a zero on that assignment. Merely doing the homework is not enough: you must do the homework, turn it in on time, read the solutions, do the self-grade, and turn it in on time. Unless all of these steps are done, you will get a zero for that assignment.

We will automatically drop the lowest homework score from your final grade calculation. This drop is meant for emergencies. If you use this drop half-way into the semester, and request another, we cannot help you. EECS47D students will not have their lowest homework score dropped.

Just like we encourage you to use a study group for doing your homework, we strongly encourage you to have others help you in grading your assignments while you help grade theirs.

Course readers are going to be grading and sending you occasional comments. Any consistent discrepancy between your self-assigned grades and the reader grades will be flagged and checked for academic dishonesty, so please grade yourself appropriately without attempting to inflate your grades. Your own scores will be used in computing your final grade for the course, adjusted by taking into account reader scores so that everyone is fairly graded effectively on the same scale. For example, if we notice that you tend to give yourself 5s on questions where readers looking at your homeworks tend to give you 8s, we will apply an upward correction to adjust.

Reader grades will be released on Gradescope about one week after the homework deadline. Readers grade questions either on a “coarse” or “fine” scale for each homework part. Coarsely graded question parts are graded based on effort. Finely graded question parts are worth a total of 10 points and are graded using the same self-grading rubric above. Homework regrade requests are typically due on Gradescope within 72 hours of reader grades being released. If a regrade request is submitted for a part of a question on the homework, the grader reserves the right to regrade the entire homework and could potentially take points off.

If you have any questions, please ask on Piazza.

If you are curious as to how your homework scores are calculated, please look at the formula below.

Self-Grade Walkthrough

Homework Resubmission

Again, the point of homework in this class is to help you learn. We understand that sometimes work from other classes, midterms or your personal life can come in the way of making a homework deadline. For this reason we will allow you to resubmit your homework for 70% credit. Homework resubmissions (apart from iPython code) must be HANDWRITTEN. Homework resubmissions will be due along with the self-grades, so they will be due by 11:59pm Monday night. If you choose to resubmit your homework, you must submit two sets of self-grades, one for the first submission and one for the second submission. For the second submission, do self-grades as normal. We will apply the 70% correction.

What does 70% credit mean? Let us say you only were able to get halfway through a problem during the first submission. You submitted your homework on Friday, and while going through the solutions you figured out how to do the whole problem. Your self-grade for your first submission would be a 5/10. However, you can resubmit the homework problem with a fully correct solution and receive 70% of the remaining points as extra points, i.e. (10-5) * 70/100 = 3.5 extra points, and so your score for the problem would go from 5 points to 8.5 points.

Homework Effort Policy

Because the point of homework in this class is to help you learn, not to punish you for making small mistakes, if your final score (after resubmission and any other corrections are applied) on any homework is above 8/10, your grade will automatically be bumped up to 100% (10/10). If your final score is less than 8/10, it will be scaled accordingly so that a 6/10 will result in 75% (7.5/10).

Participation in Discussion

Discussion is a key component to learning the material in this class, and to keep you motivated and on track, you can earn points towards your grade by attending discussion. This semester, we have both in-person and remote discussion sections available.

Participation is worth a maximum of 10 points. This is measured by discussion attendance. If you attend a discussion section live in-person, you will fill out an attendance form to count your participation; if you attend a live remote section, your attendance will automatically be counted through Zoom attendance. If you choose instead to watch a recording, you must fill out a Google form and describe what you learned in the discussion video. You must attend/watch 16 discussion sections to get full participation points. These weekly discussion checkoffs will be due the Monday of the following week at 11:59pm (the same time as the self grade deadline).

If you do not get full credit, your grade will be calculated by the number of discussion checkoffs you complete; e.g., if you attend (watch) 14 discussions or complete 14 checkoffs, you will have 14/16 * 10 = 8.7 points in this category.

Lab Policies

Labs this semester will be held virtually. Later in the semester, we may announce opportunities to view in-person lab demos, but these will be optional. Labs for this class are not open section, you must go to your assigned lab section.

Credit for each lab is based on completion and checkoff with a lab TA during your assigned lab section. In a checkoff, you will demonstrate your work from portions of the lab and answer conceptual questions related to the lab. You should aim to get checked off by the end of your lab section. If (and only if) you attend your lab section for the whole duration but do not finish in time, you may get checked off at the beginning of your next lab section before starting the following lab. We have the following grading policy for labs: If you complete all the labs, you will receive full lab credit. If you fail to complete one lab, you will receive almost full 44/45 lab credit. If you miss two labs, you will receive 42/45. If you miss three labs, you will receive 23/45 (half credit). If you miss four or more labs, you will get an F in the class.

Number of Missed Labs What Happens?
0 You get full lab credit - 45/45
1 You get almost full lab credit - 44/45
2 You get most lab credit - 42/45
3 You get half lab credit - 23/45
4 or more You Fail the class - final letter grade: F

Some lab sections are “buffer labs.” These occur during several-day periods in which no new labs begin and are offered during all regular lab times.

During buffer lab periods, you may get checked off for only one missed lab that occurred during that lab module by attending your regular assigned section. No other labs can be checked off. The eligible labs for makeup for each buffer lab period are indicated on the course schedule. If you have already completed all labs for a particular lab module, you do not need to attend the buffer lab for that module.

Wires on lab breadboards must be planar. All students will receive a lab kit to use during lab sections. Lab staff will ask students to redo their circuits before debugging them if the wires are non-planar. The definition of planar wires on a breadboard is shown below:

Planar Non-planar

Exam Policies

There is one quest, two midterms and one final. All exams, including the quest, will be held remotely. The quest will be held Tuesday, September 14th through bCourses; you may start anytime between 8:45pm and 9pm then must complete the exam in 30 minutes. The midterms will be held Monday, October 11th from 7:00pm to 9:00pm PT and Monday, November 15th from 7:00pm to 9:00pm PT. The final will be held on Tuesday, December 14th from 3:00pm to 6:00pm PT. These times have been carefully chosen to be reasonable in most time zones across the world.

Makeup exams will not be scheduled. In general, alternate exam times will not be provided, except in extenuating circumstances regarding timezones or students requiring specific accommodations (exam would take place in between the hours of 12am-7am). Alternate exams will in general not be provided for students who have scheduled classes with time-conflicts. Please contact us privately if you have any concerns.

Please plan for exams at these times. In case of an emergency on exam day, please email the Head GSI at as soon as possible and provide details of the issue as well as a contact phone number. Emergency exam conflicts will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Exam conflicts originating from a lecture conflict will not be accommodated.

Regrade requests are typically soon after exam scores are released. Late regrade requests will not be considered. If a regrade request is submitted for a part of a question on the exam, the grader reserves the right to regrade the entire exam and could potentially take points off.

Exams will be open-notes, but use of the internet or external communications is strictly prohibited.

Exams will not be proctored.

Academic Honesty

We treat all our students with utmost trust and respect, and expect students to return the same trust and respect. In EECS16A we will have zero-tolerance for academic dishonesty. There will be dire consequences for students that violate that trust and the Berkeley code of conduct. Both professors Arias and Lustig are committed to enforcing academic honesty, and dishonesty cases will be punished in their fullest -- no excuses or special circumstances will be considered. Always seek help, never cheat.

Exceptions and Exam Accommodations

Any requests for exceptions should be emailed to the Head GSI at Email the exception request as soon as possible, as retroactive exceptions will likely not be approved. Exceptions will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Since there is one homework drop, missing homework is rarely excused. Examples of situations that merit an exception are medical emergencies and family emergencies. It will be easier for us to grant an exception if you have a doctor’s note or other documentation. No exceptions will be granted after final exam scores have been released.

Accommodations will be provided to students who have letters of accommodations from DSP services and students facing hardships. Student hardships may include residing in a time zone that is significantly different from Berkeley’s time zone (refer to Exam Policies for definition) and family/medical emergencies (please provide documentation for your records).

If you can foresee unstable or limited WiFi access to an upcoming exam, contact to determine a procedure that will support you. Additionally, if your WiFi access is disrupted or fails during the exam, contact as soon as possible for an alternative arrangement.

Course Communication

The instructors and TAs will post announcements, clarifications, hints, etc. on Piazza. So, you must check the EECS16A Piazza page frequently throughout the term. (You should already have access to the EECS16A Fall 2021 Piazza. If you do not, please let us know.)

If you have a question, your best option is to post a message on Piazza. The staff (instructors and TAs) will check Piazza regularly, and if you use Piazza, other students will be able to help you too. When using Piazza, please avoid off-topic discussions, and please do not post answers to homework questions before the homework is due. Also, always look for a convenient category to post the question to (for example, each homework will have its own category, so please post there). That will ensure you get the answer faster.

If your question is personal or not of interest to other students, you may mark your question as private on Piazza, so only the instructors will see it. If you wish to talk with one of us individually, you are welcome to come to our office hours at Please reserve email for the questions you can't get answered in office hours, in discussion sections, or through Piazza.

For any exceptions that are of a personal nature, please contact the head GSI at Technical and homework questions are best resolved in homework party and during office hours (click here to visit the queue).

It can be challenging for the instructors to gauge how smoothly the class is going. We always welcome any feedback on what we could be doing better. If you would like to send anonymous comments or criticisms, please fill out this anonymous feedback form.


We encourage you to work on homework problems in study groups; however, you must always write up the solutions on your own. Similarly, you may use books or online resources to help solve homework problems, but you must always credit all such sources in your write up, and you must never copy material verbatim. Using previous EECS 16A homework, exam, and lab solutions is strictly prohibited, and will be considered academic dishonesty. This is not how you want to start your career as an engineer.

We expect that most students can distinguish between helping other students and cheating. Explaining the meaning of a question, discussing a way of approaching a solution, or collaboratively exploring how to solve a problem within your group is an interaction that we encourage strongly. But you should write your homework solution strictly by yourself, and you are not allowed to give your homework to other students to copy. You should acknowledge everyone whom you have worked with, or who has given you any significant ideas about the homework. This is good scholarly conduct.

Collaboration during exams or other designated assessments is strictly forbidden, subject to the Berkeley Honor Code, Code of Conduct, and the parameters of the specific assessment.

16A Study Group Formation

To help encourage collaboration and make it easier to meet new people in the class, we have designed a system for study-group formation where you can request study partners just by submitting a simple Google preference survey. This survey is part of the first homework, and while optional, we highly encourage you to fill it out, because having people to brainstorm with on homework can be very helpful and improve your learning.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Are you struggling? Please come talk with us! The earlier we learn about your struggles, the more likely it is that we can help you. Waiting until right before an exam or the last few weeks of the semester to let us know about your problems is not an effective strategy - the later it is, the less we will be able to help you.

Even if you are convinced that you are the only person in the class who is struggling, please overcome any feelings of embarrassment or guilt, and come ask for help as soon as you need it -- we can almost guarantee you're not the only person who feels this way. Don't hesitate to ask us for help -- we really do care that you thrive! You can email, or email / talk to any TA at any time -- we’re happy to help.


We are committed to creating an environment welcoming of all students where everyone can fulfill their potential for learning. To do so, we intend to support a diversity of perspectives and experiences and respect each others’ identities and backgrounds (including race/ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, language, religion, ability, etc.). To help accomplish this:

  • If you feel like your performance in the class is being impacted by a lack of inclusion, please contact the instructors, an academic advisor, or the departmental Faculty Equity Advisor (list and information at: An anonymous feedback form is also available at
  • There is no tolerance for sexual harassment or violence. If your behavior harms another person in this class, you may be removed from the class temporarily or permanently, or from the University.
  • If you have a name and/or pronouns that differ from your legal name, designate a preferred name for use in the classroom at:
  • If you feel like your performance in the class is being impacted by your experiences outside of class (e.g., family matters, current events), please don’t hesitate to come and talk with the instructor(s). We want to be a resource for you.
  • We are all in the process of learning how to respect and include diverse perspectives and identities. Please take care of yourself and those around you as we work through the challenging but important learning process.
  • As a participant in this class, recognize that you can be proactive about making other students feel included and respected.

Berkeley Honor Code

Everyone in this class is expected to adhere to this code: “As a member of the UC Berkeley community, I act with honesty, integrity, and respect for others.”

Accommodation policy: We honor and respect the different learning needs of our students, and are committed to ensuring you have the resources you need to succeed in our class. If you need religious or disability-related accommodations, if you have emergency medical information you wish to share with us, please share this information with us as needed. You may write to the course email address and please also see DSP and CAPS under “Resources”.

Policy on Course Content

You are free and encouraged to use course materials for personal use (in collaborations with other students, in your research, etc.). You may NOT post HW/Exams/Solutions anywhere on the web because this could encourage cheating down the road. You are expressly prohibited from uploading course materials to websites such as or, which distribute and monetize content without compensation to the University. Course material, including all video, is copyrighted and reposting to third party sites or any other form of redistribution is prohibited.


Center for Access to Engineering Excellence (CAEE) The Center for Access to Engineering Excellence (227 Bechtel Engineering Center) is an inclusive center that offers study spaces, nutritious snacks, and tutoring in >50 courses for Berkeley engineers and other majors across campus. The Center also offers a wide range of professional development, leadership, and wellness programs, and loans iclickers, laptops, and professional attire for interviews.

Disabled Students' Program (DSP):" The Disabled Student’s Program (260 César Chávez Student Center #4250; 510-642-0518) serves students with disabilities of all kinds. Services are individually designed and based on the specific needs of each student as identified by DSP's Specialists.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): Counseling and Psychological Services ( is available as part of University Health Services (the Tang Center). Services are offered at many locations, including on-site in the College of Engineering ( CAPS services are available to all students, regardless of insurance, and initial visits do not cost anything. CAPS has expanded allowing students to receive help immediately with same-day counseling (510-642-9494), online resources, and a 24/7 counseling line at (855) 817-5667. Short-term help is also available from the Alameda County Crisis hotline: 800-309-2131. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing an emergency that puts their health at risk, please call 911.

The Care Line (PATH to Care Center): The Care Line (510-643-2005) is a 24/7, confidential, free, campus-based resource for urgent support around sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, stalking, and invasion of sexual privacy. The Care Line will connect you with a confidential advocate for trauma-informed crisis support including time-sensitive information, securing urgent safety resources, and accompaniment to medical care or reporting.

Ombudsperson for Students: The Ombudsperson for Students (102 Sproul Hall; 642-5754; provides a confidential service for students involved in a University-related problem (academic or administrative), acting as a neutral complaint resolver and not as an advocate for any of the parties involved in a dispute. The Ombudsman can provide information on policies and procedures affecting students, facilitate students' contact with services able to assist in resolving the problem, and assist students in complaints concerning improper application of University policies or procedures. All matters referred to this office are held in strict confidence.

Basic Needs Center: The Basic Needs Center provides housing, food, transportation support, among other support needed to thrive at UC Berkeley. Basic Needs Center Specifically, the UC Berkeley Food Pantry (#68 Martin Luther King Student Union; aims to reduce food insecurity among students, especially the lack of nutritious food. Students can visit the pantry as many times as they need and take as much as they need while being mindful that it is a shared resource. The pantry operates on a self-assessed need basis; there are no eligibility requirements. The pantry is not for students and staff who need supplemental snacking food, but rather, core food support.

Technology Needs (STEP): Student Technology Equity Program (STEP). STEP provides laptops and other technologies for free and is for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. It requires just a simple online application form. The laptops provided are brand-new, come with four years of premier support, and meet basic requirements for students in all fields of study. There also will be opportunities for students to apply for and pick up equipment in person - curbside and contactless - at the Student Union over the next few weeks. If students live outside the Berkeley area, STEP will ship the equipment directly to them, free. STEP will continue to distribute hardware throughout the academic year, while supplies last. The College of Engineering offers its students access to an Emergency Needs Fund that complements STEP and provides support for other needs. (


The following tips are offered based on our experience.

Do the homeworks! The homework is explicitly designed to help you to learn the material as you go along. There is usually a strong correlation between homework scores and final grades in the class.

Keep up with lectures! Discussion sections, labs and homeworks all touch on portions of what we discuss in lecture. Students do much better if they stay on track with the course. That will also help you keep the pace with your homework and study group.

Take part in discussion sections! Discussion sections are not auxiliary lectures. They are an opportunity for interactive learning. The success of a discussion section depends largely on the willingness of students to participate actively in it. As with office hours, the better prepared you are for the discussion, the more you are likely to benefit from it.

Please come to office hours! We love to talk to you and do a deep dive to help you understand the material better.

Form study groups! As stated above, you are encouraged to form small groups (two to four people) to work together on homeworks and on understanding the class material on a regular basis. In addition to being fun, this can save you a lot of time by generating ideas quickly and preventing you from getting hung up on some point or other. Of course, it is your responsibility to ensure that you contribute actively to the group; passive listening will likely not help you much. And recall the caveat above that you must write up your solutions on your own. We advise you strongly to spend some time on your own thinking about each problem before you meet with your study partners; this way, you will be in a position to compare ideas with your partners, and it will get you in practice for the exams. Make sure you work through all problems yourself, and that your final write-up is your own. Some groups try to split up the problems ("you do Problem 1, I'll do Problem 2, then we'll swap notes"); not only is this a punishable violation of our collaboration policies, it also ensures you will learn a lot less from this course.