Solving Modern Programming Problems with Rust


If you have questions about the course or the current course outline, please reach out to the course email, listed below in the Course Details section.

Course Details

Course Code COMP6991
Course Title Solving Modern Programming Problems with Rust
Units of Credit 6
Course Contact <cs6991 at>
Lecturer Zac Kologlu <z.kologlu at>
Admin Shrey Somaiya <shrey.somaiya at>
Admin Tom Kunc <t.kunc at>
Admin Andrew Taylor <andrewt at>
Classes Lectures: 1UGA: Mon 18:00—20:00; Wed 18:00—20:00;
... timetable for all classes
Course Website
Course Forum
Handbook Entry

Course Summary

This course aims to provide commentary and critique on the practice of programming, and the tooling used to program (primarily programming languages themselves). A variety of programming concepts across many programming languages are examined, including: syntax, typing, polymorphism, documentation, testing, meta-programming, concurrency, parallelism, safety, and more. The Rust programming language is used as a reference language to teach considerations behind these concepts. As a language commonly cited to be well-considered, it serves as a good foundation to help students understand where countless other languages may let them down. Lectures will compare and contrast Rust with other languages, but will also discuss where Rust can similarly let students down.

While proficiency in writing Rust programs is an important learning outcome of this course, of greater importance is the ability to write more robust programs in whichever language a student happens to be using at the time.

Assumed Knowledge

As a 6000 level course, it is assumed that students are competent programmers that are able to engage in self-directed learning.

Before commencing this course, students should be able to ...

  • write complex programs in the C programming language (COMP2521 equivalent)
  • appreciate the fundamental complexity of programming; especially with respect to programs behaving unexpectedly
  • understand snippets of code in unfamiliar languages when guided by a teacher

These are assumed to have been acquired in COMP2521 and other programming courses.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, students will be able to ...

  1. Explain Rust's primary goals (safety, efficiency, productivity) and their motivations.
  2. Develop programming solutions to substantial problems using Rust.
  3. Produce effective program designs, and write unit tests and documentation tests to validate Rust programs.
  4. Create well-considered, high performance, low cost abstractions to solve problems.
  5. Reason about software through static guarantees to create robust interfaces and produce correct behaviour.
  6. Manage Rust projects using the Rustup toolchain and Cargo package manager.

This course contributes to the development of the following graduate capabilities:

Graduate Capability Acquired in
scholarship: understanding of their discipline in its interdisciplinary context lectures, assignments
scholarship: capable of independent and collaborative enquiry weekly exercises, workshops, assignments
scholarship: rigorous in their analysis, critique, and reflection workshops
scholarship: able to apply their knowledge and skills to solving problems workshops, weekly exercises, assignments
scholarship: ethical practitioners all course-work, by doing it yourself
scholarship: capable of effective communication assignments, workshops
scholarship: digitally literate everywhere in CSE
leadership: enterprising, innovative and creative assignments
leadership: collaborative team workers workshops
professionalism: capable of operating within an agreed Code of Practice all practical work

Teaching Strategies and Rationale

This course uses the standard set of practice-focussed teaching strategies employed by most CSE foundational courses:

  • Lectures … introduce concepts, show examples
  • Workshops … reinforce concepts and provide additional examples through practical work
  • Weekly Exercises … provide practical examples using various technologies
  • Assignments … allow you to solve larger practical problems

This course is taught in this format in order to demonstrate broad concepts in common programming languages during lectures, reinforce concepts with concrete examples in workshops, and allow students to apply their knowledge and skills to solving problems in weekly exercises and assignments.


Lectures will be used to present the theory and practice of the programming concepts covered in this course. The lectures will include practical demonstrations of various programming languages. Lecture notes will be available on the course web pages before each lecture. All lectures will be online-only, delivered via YouTube. During lectures, discussion and question are welcome via YouTube's live event chat. About fifteen minutes prior to each lecture, an announcement will be sent to the class via the course forum (and thus by email) which will include links to join the live lecture.

Recording of all lectures will be made available. Lectures may be pre-recorded on some topics.


From week 1, you will also be expected to participate in a 2-hour workshop to work on larger practical examples in a classroom setting, usually working on a substantial program design as a class, before implementing smaller individual pieces in smaller "breakout" groups. The workshop will conclude by integrating all of the components together back into the original program design, testing, followed by detailed discussion on both program design both in the large and in the small. There are no marks for workshop participation. Most workshops are run in-person in J17 labs. If you have enrolled in such a class, please ensure you follow UNSW's Safe Return to Campus guidance. One single class will run online via Discord. A link on the course timetable to the discord server for that class will appear in week 1, for the online workshops. Students unable to join their in-person workshop are welcome to join the online workshop. The discord server is for the workshop only, and not a general course discord server.

Weekly Exercises

Each week (excluding weeks 6 and 10), there will be one or more exercises to work on. These exercises will usually examine pratical examples relevant to previous lectures. The exercises will be released at the end of the preceding week.

Weekly exercises are indivdual assessment tasks.

Completed exercises need to be submitted. You must submit exercises before the deadline using give to obtain a mark for a weekly exercises. Weekly exercises are released each Monday. The usual weekly exercises submission deadline will be 20:00 on the Wednesday of the following week, however some weekly exercises may have an extended deadline. This will give you at least 9 days to complete each set of exercises.

The weekly exercises for each week are worth in total 2.5 marks. All 8 of your weekly exercise marks will be summed to give you a mark out of 20.


There are two assessable programming assignments. Assignments give you the chance to practice what you have learnt on relatively large problems (compared to the generally smaller weekly exercises). Assignments are a very important part of this course, therefore it is essential that you attempt them yourself.

The assignments are indivdual assessment tasks.

  • Assignment 1, on Program design; due Week 7; worth 20%
  • Assignment 2, on Concurrent programming; due Week 10; worth 25%
Late assignments submissions will be penalised. The penalty will follow the standard UNSW late penalty: a per-day mark reduction equal to 5% of the max assessment mark.

Final Exam

There will be an online exam which students completely remotely (from home). This will be centrally timetabled, and appear in your UNSW exam timetable.

It will contain a mixture of: implementation tasks (which will require you to write Rust programs), and theory questions (which require analysis and written answers). During this exam you will need to execute, debug and test your answers to implementation tasks which will be similar to those encountered in weekly exercises.

Student Conduct and Academic Integrity

Student Conduct

The Student Code of Conduct (Information, Policy) sets out what the University expects from students as members of the UNSW community. As well as the learning, teaching and research environment, the University aims to provide an environment that enables students to achieve their full potential and to provide an experience consistent with the University's values and guiding principles. A condition of enrolment is that students inform themselves of the University's rules and policies affecting them, and conduct themselves accordingly.

Students have the responsibility to observe standards of equity and respect in dealing with every member of the University community. This applies to all activities on UNSW premises and all external activities related to study and research. This includes behaviour in person as well as behaviour on social media; for example, in Facebook groups set up for the purpose of discussing UNSW courses or course work. Behaviour that is considered in breach of the Student Code Policy as discriminatory, sexually inappropriate, bullying, harassing, invading another's privacy, or causing any person to fear for their personal safety is serious misconduct, and can lead to severe penalties, including suspension or exclusion.

If you have any concerns, you may raise them with your lecturer, or approach the School Ethics Officer, Grievance Officer, or one of the student representatives.

Academic Integrity

UNSW has an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of learning informed by academic integrity. All UNSW staff and students have a responsibility to adhere to this principle of academic integrity.

Plagiarism is defined as using the words or ideas of others and presenting them as your own. Plagiarism undermines academic integrity, and is not tolerated at UNSW. Instances of plagiarism are treated by UNSW and CSE as acts of academic misconduct, which carry penalties as severe as being excluded from further study at UNSW. There are several on-line resources to help you understand what plagiarism is and how it is dealt with at UNSW.

Make sure that you read and understand these. Ignorance is not accepted as an excuse for plagiarism. In particular, at CSE you are responsible for ensuring that your assignment files are not accessible by anyone but you by setting correct permissions in your CSE home directory and for any code repositories you may use. Note also that plagiarism includes paying or asking another person to do a piece of work for you, and then submitting it as your own work.

The pages below describe the policies and procedures in more detail:

You should also read the following page which describes your rights and responsibilities in the CSE context:


Item Topics Due Marks LOs
Weekly Exercises all topics Week 1-5 + 7-9 20 2-6
Assignment 1 Program design Week 7 20 1-6
Assignment 2 Concurrent programming Week 10 25 1-6
Final Exam all topics exam period 35 1-3,5

Your final mark for this course will be computed using the above assessments as follows:

CourseWorkMark = ExerciseMark + Ass1Mark + Ass2Mark out of 65
ExamMark out of 35
FinalMark = CourseWorkMark + ExamMark out of 100
FinalGrade =
FL, if FinalMark < 50/100
PS, if 50/100 ≤ FinalMark < 65/100
CR, if 65/100 ≤ FinalMark < 75/100
DN, if 75/100 ≤ FinalMark < 85/100
HD, if FinalMark ≥ 85/100

Course Schedule

The following is a rough schedule of when topics will be covered. This may change slightly over the session if topics take more or less time to cover.

The lectures will introduce topics on Monday and Wednesday. Workshops and weekly exercises will follow those same topics on Thursday and Friday.

Week Topics Assigns
0 Course intro, toolchain setup -
1 Rust intro, algebraic types -
2 Collections, error handling -
3 Borrowing, lifetimes -
4 Documentation, testing, modularity -
5 Polymorphism -
6 Flexibility week -
7 Functions, meta-programming assign 1 due
8 Concurrency, parallelism -
9 Unsafe, basic FFI -
10 Wrap up, exam overview (No exercises) assign 2 due

Topic Notes

Course intro, toolchain setup

  • Introduction to the course
  • Goals and aims for the term
  • Expectations for students
  • Course outline
  • Creating Rust projects using Rustup / Cargo

Rust intro, algebraic types

  • Variables, mutability, data types, functions
  • If, while, for, everything as an expression
  • Structs (product types) and enums (sum types)
  • Common types (Option, Result)
  • Pattern matching
  • Ownership + move semantics (basic)

Collections, error handling

  • Collections (vector, string, hashmap, iterator)
  • Simple derive macros (Copy, Clone, Debug, etc.)
  • Error handling (Result, panic)
  • Try trait / operator

Borrowing, lifetimes

  • Borrowing (References)
  • Lifetimes
  • Smart pointers (Box, Rc/Arc, Cell/Refcell)

Documentation, testing, modularity

  • Modularising projects
  • Documenting code
  • Unit testing
  • Documentation testing


  • Generics type parameters (parametric polymorphism)
  • Monomorphization
  • Traits (ad-hoc polymorphism)
  • Static vs dynamic dispatch

Functions, meta-programming

  • Closures
  • Function types (fn, FnOnce, FnMut, Fn)
  • Macros

Concurrency, parallelism

  • Fearless concurrency!
  • Threads
  • Sync primitives (Mutex, RwLock, mpsc, etc.)
  • Send / Sync traits
  • Rayon

Unsafe, basic FFI

  • Unsafe Rust
  • Safe abstractions over unsafe operations
  • Unsafe tooling (MIRI, sanitizers)
  • Basic FFI

Wrap up

  • Course wrap up
  • Current state and future of Rust
  • Exam details

Resources for Students

There is no single book that covers all of the material in this course at the same level of detail as we are. The lecture notes should provide sufficient detail to introduce topics, and you will then study them in further depth in the workshops, exercises and assignments.

There are also many online resources available, and we will provide links to the most useful ones. Some are listed below. If you find others, please post links on the course forum.

The following is a Recommended Reading for this course:

The book is accessible through the web as HTML, or a paperback / ebook copy can be ordered from No Starch Press.

Some suggestions for other books that cover at least some of the topics in this course:

  • Rust in Action: Systems programming concepts and techniques, by Tim McNamara
  • Rust for Rustaceans: Idiomatic Programming for Experienced Developers, by Jon Gjengset; complex reading for more intermediate Rust programmers

Documentation for the various systems used in the course is linked from the course website.

Course Evaluation and Development

Every term, student feedback is requested in a survey using UNSW's myExperience online survey system where the feedback will be used to make improvements to the course.

Students are also encouraged to provide informal feedback during the session, and to let course staff know of any problems as soon as they arise. Suggestions will be listened to openly, positively, constructively, and thankfully, and every reasonable effort will be made to address them.

COMP6991 has not previously run; we eagerly await your feedback!

We will be making a consistent effort throughout 22T3 to gather student feedback during the delivery of the course.