Course Syllabus


Tue and Thu, 2:00pm - 3:15pm, 201 CEF.


Prof. Cesare Tinelli
201D MLH
(319) 335-0735
cesare-tinelli + @ +

Office hours: Tue 3:30pm-5:30pm, Wed 5pm-6pm, and by appointment.

Teaching Assistant

Ruoyu Zhang
101N MLH
(319) 335-0713
ruoyu-zhang + @ +

Office hours: Mon/Wed/Thu 10:30am-11:30am, and by appointment.


CS:2810 (22C:022) or ECE:3330 (055:033), or equivalent.

Course Sections

This course has a regular section (0001) which meets during the regular lectures and an on-line one (0EXW) for distance education students. The only difference between the two sections is that distance education students do not attend the lectures but can access recordings of them on-line. Each new recording will be posted on-line about an hour after the lecture.

Web Sites

Most of the information about the class, including handouts and assignments, will be available from the class web site:

We will also use Piazza, a class discussion service highly catered to getting students help fast and efficiently from classmates as well as the teaching staff:

Finally, we will use ICON for homework and grade posting and for homework submissions.

Students are expected to check both the class web site and the Piazza discussion board on a regular basis (at least every other day) for announcements regarding the course.

Course Objectives

This course provides an hands-on introduction to formal methods for software engineering. The purpose of formal methods is to enable the construction of highly reliable software. Their foundation is the precise specification of the run-time properties that a software system is expected to satisfy. Formal methods are concerned with specifications that are precise for being stated in languages endowed with a formal syntax, semantics, and theory. Formality helps the specification process in at least two ways:

  1. it naturally leads to unambiguous, high-quality specifications, and
  2. it provides the bases for automated tool support.

As we will see, formal specification techniques allow for the construction of automated verification tools that can perform tests on specifications and corresponding code to look for errors in requirements, models, designs, and implementations.

In this course, we will study a collection of techniques for formal software development, spanning the whole development process: from high-level semantic modeling to coding and debugging. The study will not be done in the abstract, however, but through the use of actual tools supporting these techniques.

Students should be prepared to put in considerable time and effort into reading to become familiar with the course's topics, and into homeworks and exercises to gain experience with the techniques seen in class.

Textbook and Readings

There is no required textbook for this course. All reading materials will be made available through the course web site. They will include several papers on formal software specification and verification, a number of papers on how to use the specification/verification tools adopted in the course, and various class notes and handouts.

The formalisms used in this class are ultimately based on propositional logic and on first-order logic (predicate calculus). A suggested reference for background knowledge in such logic is

Michael Huth and Mark Ryan. Logic in Computer Science. Cambridge University Press, 2004 (2nd edition).

A copy of this book will be on reserve in the Engineering Library.

Computer Accounts and Software

For this course, it will be helpful to use your account on the computer science machines because they will have a working installation of the software tools used in class. Instructions on how to access those machines, on-site or remotely, and use the installed software will be provided on the course website.

Although you are welcome to use your own computer for course work, you are responsible for installing all the necessary software. We regret that will not be able to provide assistance for any problems with your own installation.

Homework Assignments

A few exercises will be given during the course of the semester, covering the material from the textbook and the lectures. These exercises are required but will not be collected or graded.

For each main topic there will be a graded introductory assignment and a graded mini-project, both to be done in small teams. Each student on a team will be expected to complete a similar amount of work and to contribute equally to the final project. Students will be asked to submit an evaluation of how well they and their teammate performed as team members. Each evaluation is confidential and will be be incorporated into the calculation of the project grade.


There will be one one midterm and one final exam. Both they will be take-home exams to be done individually. Do not share or do your exams with others. Exams showing strong similarities and/or duplication will be considered the result of academic dishonesty (see Cheating Section below).


The weighting of items in grade determination will be the following:

Assignments 15%
Mini Projects 20%
Midterm 30%
Final Exam 35%

The following cutoffs will be used to determine letter grades. In the ranges below, x stands for your total score at the end of the semester. Final scores near a cutoff will be individually considered for the next higher grade. Plus(+) and minus(-) grades will also be given; their cutoffs will be determined at the end of the semester.

Score Grade
88 <= x < 100 A
75 <= x < 88


60 <= x < 75 C
50 <= x < 60 D
00 <= x < 50 F

Grades are not curved in this course. It is theoretically possible for everyone in the class to get an A (or an F). Your final grade depends only on your own final score and not on that of others.

Academic Excellence and Workload

The University of Iowa expects students to set high academic standards for themselves and work hard towards achieving them (recall the Iowa Challenge). You can achieve true academic excellence only through dedicated work. An average workload of 6 hours a week besides class attendance should be considered the norm for this course. More effort might be needed depending on your background, predisposition and academic ambition.


Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. In particular, under no circumstances should you pass off someone else's work as your own. This also applies to code or other material that you might find on the Internet.

Graded Homework: Sharing solutions of graded homework between teams or copying someone else's work, including posted solutions from previous editions of the course, is not allowed. Doing that will result in a zero on the assignment and a report to the CS department's chair and the college.
You are allowed and encouraged to discuss with students in other teams concepts and ideas that relate to the class and the homework assignments. However, it is important to ensure that these discussions do not lead to the actual exchange of written material.

Exams: The midterm and final exams for this course are not a collaborative project. They must be completed without any help from others. Exams showing strong similarities and/or duplication will receive a fail grade and the students involved will be reported to the Department and the College.
If you are unclear about what constitutes academic dishonesty it is your responsibility to contact the instructors or consult the CLAS policy (online version). Be aware that repeated academic dishonesty offenses lead to suspension or expulsion from the University.

Course Policies

Communicating with the Instructors: We welcome questions related to the course. Students are strongly encouraged to post their class-related questions on Piazza (publicly or privately, as appropriate) rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff. Questions sent by email will receive lower priority. We will try to answer all questions, posted or emailed, by the end of the following day.
We will occasionally send email announcements to all students in the class. Recall that you are responsible for all official correspondence sent to your Hawkmail address (see General CLAS Policies on electronic Communication below).

Assigned Readings: Students are expected to study all the material assigned as required readings, even if that material is not explicitly discussed in class or in the homeworks.

Additional Readings and Discussions: Students are also encouraged to go over any specifically suggested readings and consult any relevant materials beyond those provided on the course's web site. Students are also encouraged to discuss the course topics with their classmates. It is a genuinely helpful learning activity having to formulate one's own thoughts about the material well enough to express them to others.

Attendance: Students are expected to attend all classes, in person or on-line depending on their section. Their knowledge and therefore their grade depends on it. They are responsible for all announcements and material covered during class even if they did not attend.

Extra Credit: No extra-credit assignments or tests will be given on an individual basis (although they maybe given to the whole class).

Make-up Exams: Make-up exams will be offered only if there is a serious, documented reason for not being able to take a scheduled exam, and if the request is made at least a week before the exam.

Regrading: Students thinking a graded assignment or test has been misgraded and deserves a regrading are invited to let the instructor know. The instructor welcomes and will give full consideration to all well motivated regrading requests.

General CLAS Policies

Administrative Home: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the administrative home of this course and governs matters such as the add/drop deadlines, the second-grade-only option, and other related issues. Different colleges may have different policies. Questions may be addressed to 120 Schaeffer Hall, or see the CLAS Academic Policies Handbook at

Electronic Communication University policy specifies that students are responsible for all official correspondences sent to their University of Iowa e-mail address ( Faculty and students should use this account for correspondences (Operations Manual, III.15.2, k.11).

Accommodations for Disabilities: A student seeking academic accommodations should first register with Student Disability Services and then meet privately with the course instructor to make particular arrangements. See the Student Disability Services website for more information.

Academic Honesty: All CLAS students have, in essence, agreed to the College's Code of Academic Honesty: "I pledge to do my own academic work and to excel to the best of my abilities, upholding the IOWA Challenge. I promise not to lie about my academic work, to cheat, or to steal the words or ideas of others; nor will I help fellow students to violate the Code of Academic Honesty." Any student committing academic misconduct is reported to the College and placed on disciplinary probation or may be suspended or expelled (CLAS Academic Policies Handbook).

CLAS Final Examination Policies: The final examination schedule for each class is announced around the fifth week of the semester by the Registrar. Final exams are offered only during the official final examination period. No exams of any kind are allowed during the last week of classes. All students should plan on being at the UI through the final examination period. Once the Registrar has announced the dates and times of each final exam, the complete schedule will be published on the Registrar's web site.

Making a Suggestion or a Complaint: Students with a suggestion or complaint should first visit with the instructor (and the course supervisor), and then with the departmental DEO. Complaints must be made within six months of the incident (CLAS Academic Policies Handbook).

Understanding Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment subverts the mission of the University and threatens the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. All members of the UI community have a responsibility to uphold this mission and to contribute to a safe environment that enhances learning. Incidents of sexual harassment should be reported immediately. See for assistance, definitions, and the full University policy.

Reacting Safely to Severe Weather: In severe weather, class members should seek appropriate shelter immediately, leaving the classroom if necessary. The class will continue if possible when the event is over. For more information on Hawk Alert and the siren warning system, visit the Department of Public Safety website.

Copyright: Cesare Tinelli, The University of Iowa, 2014   Credits