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

From: Marco Morazan (morazanm at
Date: Tue Feb 17 11:58:32 EST 2009

> 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.)

Eloquently stated although it will make few friends among, say, those
that develop fancier type systems. Nonetheless, highways, streets, and
dirt roads from hell to heaven are, indeed, needed.

> 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

Interesting proposal. Certainly easier than building a compiler for
whatever bytecode robot X interprets. I bet I can even get some
undergrads to contribute to such an effort over a summer.

> Such a framework shouldn't be too far from and it will help you

I believe you are correct. Simulation with graphics + control is
doable. If I can simulate the movement of a spaceship, I can simulate
the movement of a robot.

> demo to your students why 'program design' is so superior to 'programming.'

It is definitely worth a try. :-)

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

My intro students are finally beginning to talk in a similar way. It
took more than a semester to get them to give up the bad habits they
brought from HS (or learned elsewhere in case of upper classmen), but
they now agree that they are really learning to program. Just last
week after class, an upper classmen walks up to me and we had this

Student: Well done. This is the only course that has ever made me feel stupid.

Marco: Stupid? I don't want you to feel stupid.

Student: No, really well done. This course makes me feel stupid,
because it's showing me that I really do not know how to think.

Marco: But, are you learning how to think about and analyze problems?

Student: Are you kidding? This is the course I have learned the most
in. I should have had such a course as a freshman like these guys
(i.e. the other students in the class).

Marco: There is nothing stupid about learning. Well done! :-)




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