W1165 Karel Introduction

From Coder Merlin
CoderMerlin™ Karel

Prerequisites[edit]

Background[edit]

Richard Pattis
Karel the Robot
Karel Čapek

 Coder Merlin™ Karel , also known as "that little blue bot", is strongly inspired by Richard Pattis' book written during his studies at Stanford.[1][2] Richard Pattis currently teaches at the University of California, Irvine. Pattis chose the name Karel in honor of the Czech playwright Karel Čapek, who introduced the word robot in his 1921 play R.U.R.

Eric Roberts, Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, September 2005:

In the 1970s, a Stanford graduate student named Rich Pattis decided that it would be easier to teach the fundamentals of programming if students could somehow learn the basic ideas in a simple environment free from the complexities that characterize most programming languages. Drawing inspiration from the success of Seymour Papert’s LOGO project at MIT, Rich designed an introductory programming environment in which students teach a robot to solve simple problems. [3]

 Coder Merlin™ Karel  is a very simple robot living in a very simple world. Programming  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is accomplished by specifying a series of simple instructions.  Coder Merlin™ Karel  initially understands only a very few instructions, but over time you can expand the vocabulary by defining functions and enhancing  Coder Merlin™ Karel 's abilities.

All instructions issued to  Coder Merlin™ Karel  must be very precise and unambiguous, a key requirement of well-written programs. The programs themselves must obey a set of syntactic rules which define which commands (and the ordering of those commands) are acceptable. These rules define a programming language, such as the Swift programming language which we've been using. The details of the subset of instructions which  Coder Merlin™ Karel  understands are very easy to master, enabling us to focus on problem solving.

These same steps can be used to help us solve any task which can be expressed as an algorithm:

  1. Understand the question
  2. Develop an algorithm to answer the question
  3. Express the algorithm as a flowchart
  4. Translate the algorithm to code


It is problem solving which is the focus and essence of computer programming.

Introduction (Welcome to my World)[edit]

Streets, Avenues, and Corners[edit]

Figure 1

 Coder Merlin™ Karel  lives in a city with green avenues running vertically north-south and blue streets running horizontally east-west. The intersection of a street with an avenue is called a corner.  Coder Merlin™ Karel  can only be position on a corner and must point in one of the four cardinal directions.  Coder Merlin™ Karel  always points with his hat, so in Figure 1  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is positioned at (avenue: 1, street: 1) and is facing north. Note that worlds may be of various sizes depending upon the challenge that needs to be solved.

Beepers[edit]

Figure 2

Corners may have zero or more beepers present, indicated by a yellow/red rotating beacon. The number in the center of the beacon indicates the number of beepers present on the corner. In Rich Pattis’s book, beepers are "plastic cones which emit a quiet beeping noise."  Coder Merlin™ Karel  can only detect a beeper if it is on the same corner.  Coder Merlin™ Karel  carries with him a hidden beeper bag; the number on the front of  Coder Merlin™ Karel  indicates how many beepers are in the bag (Figure 3).

Figure 3


Walls[edit]

Figure 4

Walls may be present between streets and avenues and serve as a barrier to  Coder Merlin™ Karel ; unable to pass through them  Coder Merlin™ Karel  must go around them. Note that the presence of walls is implied around the boundary of the city.

Challenges[edit]

 Coder Merlin™ Karel  is integrated into  Merlin Mission Manager  but because it is built on top of IGIS[4] a few additional steps are necessary to complete  Coder Merlin™ Karel  challenges.

Getting Started[edit]

 Coder Merlin™ Karel  missions take a similar form to other missions and the usage of the  Merlin Mission Manager  is similar. You'll need to follow the same paradigm for accepting and preparing missions and challenges as that of previous missions and challenges. However, there are a few difference which follow:

File Structure[edit]

The challenges require use of a framework (a series of libraries). While most of this is transparent you'll notice several more files in the challenge directory, including:

  • ActionPlan.swift - SHOULD be MODIFIED to develop an effective solution to the challenge.
  • 🚫 dylib.manifest - Generally SHOULD NOT be altered. It's responsible for providing a list of required dynamic libraries and their versions.
  • instructions.txt - SHOULD be READ and closely followed before beginning the challenge.
  • 🚫 main.swift - Generally SHOULD NOT be altered. It's responsible for using the  Coder Merlin™ Karel  framework to create the world.
  • 🚫 make.sh - Generally SHOULD NOT be altered. It contains the instructions necessary to build the project.
  • 🚫 Package.swift - Generally SHOULD NOT be altered. It contains a description of the package to be built.
  • 🚫 run.sh - Generally SHOULD NOT be altered. It contains the instructions necessary to run the project.
  • 🚫 WorldPlanner.swift - Generally SHOULD NOT be altered. It contains a description of the world which  Coder Merlin™ Karel  must navigate along with the goal of an effective solution.

Syntax Highlighting[edit]

Syntax highlighting and other Language Services will perform normally in emacs but require additional setup after preparing the challenge. These steps are only required once per challenge.

  1. Enter the challenge directory
  2. Generate a new emacs configuration file
    john-williams@codermerlin:~/Merlin...$ dylibEmacs
  3. Open ActionPlan.swift in emacs
  4. A message will appear at the bottom of emacs. When warned about "The local variables list in /home/john-williams/Merlin/...contains values that may not be safe (*)" press ! to apply the local variable list and permanently mark the values as safe
  5. A message will appear at the bottom of emacs:

ActionPlan.swift is not part of any project. Select action:

i==>Import project root ~/Merlin/.../.
I==>Import project by selecting root directory interactively.
d==>Do not ask again for the current project by adding ~/Merlin/.../ to lsp-session-folders-blacklist.
D==>Do not ask again for the current project by selecting ignore path interactively.
n=>Do nothing: ask again when opening other files from the current project.

Press I (capital 'I') and select the directory for this challenge in which Package.swift is located.

Building[edit]

Like most challenges, the project can be built by issuing a build command on the console:

john-williams@codermerlin:~/Merlin...$ build

Alternatively, one can use F5 b from within emacs.

Running[edit]

Like most challenges, the project can be run by issuing a run command on the console:

john-williams@codermerlin:~/Merlin...$ run

Alternatively, one can use F5 r from within emacs.

HintIcon.png
Helpful Hint

In order to terminate a running program within emacs:

  1. Switch to the window in which the program is running using CONTROL-x o, repeating as many times as is necessary. (The window will be titled "*Async Shell Command*".)
  2. Terminate the running program with CONTROL-c CONTROL-c

Viewing[edit]

Unlike most challenges, very little information will be displayed to the console. Rather, a browser needs to be opened to view the output.

HintIcon.png
Helpful Hint

Each user has their own, dedicated URL for viewing Igis programs. For example, John Williams' URL is: https://www.codermerlin.com/igis/john-williams/

Be sure to change your URL in accordance with your user name. Of course, you'll only be able to view your program while it is running.

Simulation Control[edit]

Controlling  Coder Merlin™ Karel  occurs through programming of the Action Plan (described below). However, there are a few keypresses that may be helpful while running the simulation:

Key Sequence Purpose
Space Toggles between the current and goal views
f Causes the animation to run faster
s Causes the animation to run slower
HintIcon.png
Helpful Hint
The simulation can be restarted by refreshing the browser.

The Goal[edit]

Each challenge has a target goal state which may be viewed by toggling to the goal view. The goal view appears with a gold background. The first step of solving any  Coder Merlin™ Karel  challenge begins by running an empty Action Plan which will show the initial state and then toggling to the goal state. The objective is to formulate an action plan to alter the world from the initial state to the goal state.

Initial (Current) View
Goal View


In the above case, we can see that the initial view has  Coder Merlin™ Karel  at (avenue: 1, street: 1) with one beeper (indicated as a "1" on his body). After achieving the goal,  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is now located at (avenue: 3, street: 3) after having dropped his beeper at (avenue: 2, street: 3) along the way.

Action Plan[edit]

The Action Plan is located in the file ActionPlan.swift. Initially, the file is nearly empty:

 1 import MerlinKarel
 2 
 3 class ActionPlan: KarelExecutor {
 4 
 5     // Declare functions here:
 6 
 7     override func run() {
 8         // Insert your code here:
 9     }
10 
11 }
  • Line 1 informs the Swift compiler that we'll be relying on functionality imported from the MerlinKarel library. This line should not be changed.
  • Line 3 begins the definition of a new class descending from a KarelExecutor. We'll learn more about classes later. This line should not be changed.
  • Line 7 begins the definition of a required function called run. You'll insert your code within the body of this function. Any other functions can be inserted below line 5.

Action Instructions[edit]

When shipped from the factory,  Coder Merlin™ Karel  understands the following action instructions:

Instruction Purpose
move() moves  Coder Merlin™ Karel  forward one corner in the direction he is facing.

⚠️ If  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is unable to move forward (because he is blocked by a wall or at the world's edge) the program will terminate with an error.

turnLeft() turns  Coder Merlin™ Karel  counterclockwise by 90°
pickUpBeeper()  Coder Merlin™ Karel  will pick up one beeper from the corner upon which he is located.

⚠️ If  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is unable to pick up a beeper because none are present on the corner the program will terminate with an error.

putDownBeeper()  Coder Merlin™ Karel  will put down one beeper from his beeper bag on the corner upon which he is located.

⚠️ If  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is unable to put down a beeper because none are present in his beeper bag the program will terminate with an error.

Sensor Instructions[edit]

When shipped from the factory,  Coder Merlin™ Karel  understands the following sensor instructions:

Instruction Purpose
isBeeperHere() Returns true iff a beeper is present on the corner upon which  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is located, otherwise returns false.
anyBeepersInBag() Returns true iff at least one beeper is present in  Coder Merlin™ Karel 's bag, otherwise returns false.
isFacingNorth() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is facing north, otherwise returns false.
isFacingEast() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is facing east, otherwise returns false.
isFacingSouth() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is facing south, otherwise returns false.
isFacingWest() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is facing west, otherwise returns false.
isFrontClear() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is clear (not blocked) to proceed forward, otherwise returns false.
isLeftClear() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is clear (not blocked) to proceed to the left, otherwise returns false.
isRightClear() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is clear (not blocked) to proceed to the right, otherwise returns false.
isGoalLocation() Returns true iff  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is at the goal location, otherwise returns false.

Function Block Opportunities[edit]

Function Block

As you develop a plan to achieve the goal, search for Function Block Opportunities.

  • Functions enable us to avoid the repetition of code, i.e. code that would otherwise need to appear more than once should be contained within a function.
  • Functions allow us to divide complicated tasks into sub-tasks that can be thought about separately.[5]
  • Properly parameterizing functions can enable the same function to be invoked from multiple sites with appropriate arguments.
  • Functions should perform a single, specific, coherent task completely.

Function blocks are represented by a rectangle with a vertical line on either side.

Function Block Example[edit]

Invocation of turnAround()
Invocation of turnAround()

An example of a function block useful for  Coder Merlin™ Karel  would be a function to turn  Coder Merlin™ Karel  around 180°. The invocation of the function would appear in our flowchart as indicated in the figure on the left.

The implementation of such a function is indicated in the figure on the right.

Testing[edit]

After the Action Plan has been completed and tested using the run command (or equivalent), it may be tested using the  Merlin Mission Manager  in the same manner as other challenges:

john-williams@codermerlin:~/Merlin...$ merlin test

Note, however, that you must open a browser to your Igis page in order to complete the test.

WarnIcon.png
Caution

The  Merlin Mission Manager  may alter the parameters of a test in many ways. Be certain that the instructions in instructions.txt are closely followed before submitting your work.

Submission[edit]

After you are certain that the Action Plan has been tested successfully, it may be submitted using the  Merlin Mission Manager  in the same manner as other challenges:

john-williams@codermerlin:~/Merlin...$ merlin submit


Note, however, that you must open a browser to your Igis page in order to complete the submission.

HintIcon.png
Helpful Hint

The application will terminate automatically during a  Merlin Mission Manager  run when the run() function completes. In order to terminate the application when it is being executed outside of the  Merlin Mission Manager , press CONTROL-c.

Key Concepts[edit]

KeyConceptsIcon.png
Key Concepts
  • Karel was created by Richard Pattis during his studies at Stanford.
  • Karel was named in honor of the Czech playwright Karel Čapek, who introduced the word robot in his 1921 play R.U.R.
  • Programming  Coder Merlin™ Karel  is accomplished by specifying a series of simple instructions. All instructions issued to  Coder Merlin™ Karel  must be very precise and unambiguous.
  • Programs themselves must obey a set of syntactic rules which define which commands (and the ordering of those commands) are acceptable.
  • It is problem solving which is the focus and essence of computer programming.
  •  Coder Merlin™ Karel  lives in a city with green avenues running vertically north-south and blue streets running horizontally east-west.
  • The intersection of a street with an avenue is called a corner.
  • Corners may have zero or more beepers present.
  •  Coder Merlin™ Karel  carries with him a hidden beeper bag.
  • Walls may be present between streets and avenues and serve as a barrier.
  •  Coder Merlin™ Karel  understands the following action instructions:
    • move()
    • turnLeft()
    • pickUpBeeper()
    • putDownBeeper()
  •  Coder Merlin™ Karel  understands the following sensor instructions:
    • isBeeperHere()
    • anyBeepersInBag()
    • isFacingNorth()
    • isFacingEast()
    • isFacingSouth()
    • isFacingWest()
    • isFrontClear()
    • isLeftClear()
    • isRightClear()
    • isGoalLocation()

Exercises[edit]

HintIcon.png
Helpful Hint

Throughout these exercises, your ActionPlan.swift file will be carried forward from one challenge to the next within a mission. It is in your best interest to define useful functions in this file enabling you to leverage them in subsequent challenges. In this way, you'll build a library of functions that you're able to reuse; you're essentially providing  Coder Merlin™ Karel  with additional capabilities.

Note that when you begin a new mission, you'll need to manually copy your ActionPlan.swift file from the prior mission.


WarnIcon.png
Caution

Igis projects may require substantial disk space. As a consequence, it's wise to occasionally execute:

john-williams@codermerlin:~/Merlin...$ merlin-clean


This will free temporary space required for building and running your Igis projects. It will NOT delete any of your source files.


ExercisesIcon.png
Exercises
  1.  M1165-10  Complete  Merlin Mission Manager  Mission M1165-10
  2.  M1165-11  Complete  Merlin Mission Manager  Mission M1165-11

References[edit]