from hell to paradise ; ; ; was: [plt-scheme] Prereqs for robotic programming

From: Matthias Felleisen (matthias at
Date: Tue Feb 17 10:44:54 EST 2009

On Feb 17, 2009, at 10:29 AM, Marco Morazan wrote:

> It is like an article of faith that program design does not apply  
> to programming robots

The problem that we are facing is that most of these so-called  
professor-programmers don't know how to design a program, and even if  
they have seen your design activity in action they can't imagine how  
this struct-union-list-tree stuff could possibly apply to their domain.

Whose failure is this?

Ours as much as theirs. While we should expect more from academics  
than what many of our colleagues display, FP has failed to reach out  
and demonstrate concretely to such people "how _it_ works and is  
superior to what they have." We have failed as discipline, we have  
failed as individuals, we have failed at all levels. Instead of  
building a road from 'hell' to 'paradise' we continue to dust and  
polish paradise with ever-fancier type systems and logics and what- 
have-yous. What we really need, however, are ways to take existing  
'stuff' and integrate it into a 'good' framework and gradually  
improve it. (That's what Typed Scheme is about, Dracula, contracts,  
what have you.)

[I have been meaning to write an essay on this topic but I don't ever  
seem to find time.]

Let's build:

  -- a software simulation test bed for robots
  -- with an interface that's like the stupid robots BW will program
  -- and let's demo in your course how 'program design' can do much  
much better than his programming

Such a framework shouldn't be too far from and it will  
help you demo to your students why 'program design' is so superior to  
'programming.' At Rice, my freshmen were my best ambassadors. After  
two or three instances of '210' and a parallel effort by 'highly  
respected teachers from the engineering school' to compete with me, I  
walked into the first session over bodies everywhere (1995,  
before .com). When I asked why they were here, one student got up and  

  "Many of us took 2xx last year from Prof. yy. In that class, we  
   Fortran, but we've been told that in your class, we learn to  

(I hadn't yet learned to say 'program design'. And I will admit that  
I didn't build roads to paradise back then.)

-- Matthias

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