Functions – weeks 6 and 7

“Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”

— Edsger Dijkstra

Handout: 4_intro_1_functions

Custom functions

Custom functions are mini-programs inside our program that we can call ‘later’. We use them to split a problem in independent parts.

Python ignores a function until we ‘call’ it. When we ‘call’ a function, Python looks for its definition and runs its commands in order; when all the instructions have been executed, Python returns to the instructions that called the function.

Python recognizes the commands that are part of the function because they are all indented 4 spaces to the right. We define functions like this:

The function is the single most important concept that you will learn in programming. Some god rules of thumb when writing functions are:

  • have your functions do only one thing
  • keep your functions short
  • give your functions meaningful names
  • keep the length of all your functions about the same

Aliases

A function is an alias of another function if it simply renames it. For example, in our library we have the function left() that is an alias of the built-in function turn_left():

Since left() is an alias of turn_left(), both do exactly the same. We can use aliases to shorten or clarify function names, and to translate our commands to another language.

Top-down approach to problems

The goal of these two weeks is to learn to solve a problem by splitting it into pieces. At this stage our approach to problem solving is the following:

  1. Understand what the problem is: e do not rush to write the program before understanding what it is asking us to do.
  2. Formulate the problem: identify pieces of the problem that are independent of each other.
  3. Look for patterns: identify the beginning and endings of patterns, if any
  4. Implement it: write down the sequence of independent parts of the problem. This code should look like english.
  5. Repeat this process for each of your functions until you can express each solution in terms of functions that already exist, i., either built-ins or library functions.

New functions in the library

The library now has two additional functions:

Training Missions

TM1 Life in SoCal – Touchdown

Work it out

In this mission we will use functions to split a problem in independent parts.

Karel needs to pick up the football and score a touchdown. Let’s do it!

Before: Ready!

Before: Ready!

After: Touchdown!

After: Touchdown!

football-556795_640

Answer: Show it to me

Our main function (the function at the ‘top’ of all others) has to move Karel to the ball, have him take it, then move Karel to the end zone and, finally, have him put the ball down. The following program solves the mission completely:

Now that we solved the top function, we work out it of the functions under it: we need to create a function for each of our commands using built-in and custom functions. Two of our functions are aliases:

The other two of functions are also fairly simple:

To get the final program, we put our functions together with the main program. The order in which we place our functions is not important as long as the main function is last:

TM2 Strawberries – Single file

Work it out

In this mission we will use a function to describe a pattern.

Karel wants to plant 10 strawberry plants in each of the 7 cells in front of his house. Karel starts with 70 plants in his bag. Help Karel be the best farmer he can be and then take him home.

berry-197078_640

Before: Ready to plant the strawberries

Before: Ready to plant the strawberries


After: All done

After: All done

Answer: Show it to me

Our main function has to turn Karel to the right, then plant all the strawberries and then go home. The following program solves the ‘top’ problem completely:

Now let’s work out the functions under our ‘top’ problem. There is no command to turn right but we can effectively turn right if we turn left three times. To make the program more readable, we’ll write an alias to turn_left() and use it to write our right() function:

There are two ways in which we can plant the strawberries. In the first one, we spell out what Karel needs to do; in the second one, we look for the pattern, write a function that describes it, and then use the function. Clearly, the second approach is better than the first:

Version 1:

Version 2:

After picking up the berries Karel will be in the cell to the left of the home square. Hence, go_home() is simply an alias of move(). The complete final program is:

3rd grade – The missing gosling

Work it out

First the chickens and now the gosling! That pen must have a hole. Have Karel put the gosling back in its pen and then take Karel to his home square.

gosling-810541_640

Answer: Show it to me

Hint: your main program can be:

Before...

Before…

..and after.

..and after.

4th grade – The diagonal garden

work it out

Pick up the strawberries and then take Karel home. This program is very short if you use the functions in the library.

strawberries-706650_640

Answer: Show it to me


Ready to pick up the strawberries

Ready to pick up the strawberries

all done!

all done!


Hint:

Use functions to split the mission in independent parts. The main function could be something like this:

5th grade – Strawberries – Fertilizer

Work it out

Now we need fertilizer for the strawberries. Karel just got an order of 8 pallets of 10 bags each, all of which have to be stored in their corresponding sheds. Nasty work but if we want strawberry shortcake we need the strawberries so….

As usual, take advantage of the functions in the library.

torte-2243_640

Answer: Show it to me

Before...

Before…

..and after

..and after

Hint:

Use a function to describe the pattern.

6th grade – Olympic dreams – Speed skating

work it out

You cannot imagine the problem of fitting Karel with skates.. oh well. Karel is heading to the speed skating track: a single clove-shaped lap. Pick up all the 16 flags and then drop them at the podium. Will it be a medal or a contusion?

This is your chance to medal. Good luck.

"Paulien van Deutekom (08-12-2007)" by McSmit - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Paulien van Deutekom (08-12-2007)” by McSmit – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Answer: Show it to me

Before...

Before…

..and after

..and after