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Swampy is a suite of Python programs used throughout the Engineering with Computing curriculum at Olin College. It was written by Allen Downey and is available under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Swampy includes these components:

  • Lumpy

    Lumpy stands for "UML in Python" It is used in Software Design to provide a model of execution and to teach UML object and class diagrams.
  • AmoebaWorld

    Used in Introductory Programming to provide practice writing Python expressions and to introduce object-oriented programming.

  • TurtleWorld

    Used in Software Design to teach procedural interface design and object-oriented programming.

  • TurmiteWorld

    Used in Computational Modeling to demonstrate and allow students to experiment with cellular automata and finite state machines, including Langton's Ant. (The misspelling of "termite" is deliberate; it is a tribute to Alan Turing).

  • Sync

    Sync is a simulator that demonstrates the execution of multithreaded programs that interact through Semaphores. It is used in Synchronization to help students test solutions to synchronization problems.

Swampy is supported by two textbooks (both available under the GNU Free Documentation License):


Version History

  • Version 1.1 released June 26, 2007.

  • Version 1.0 released July 6, 2006.

  • Version 0.9 released May 2006?


What is Swampy for?

Swampy provides an environment for a range of exercises related to Software Engineering:

  • Lumpy generates UML diagrams, helping student understand object-reference semantics and software design (especially object-oriented design).

  • AmoebaWorld is used to develop basic programming skills and provide a gentle introduction to object-oriented programming.

  • TurtleWorld is used to teach multi-level interface design (for example, designing a library of primitive functions and using it to implement a higher level library).

  • TurmiteWorld is a sandbox for experimenting with cellular automata and finite state machines.

  • Sync is a simulator that provides a model of synchronized concurrent threads.
These components are used throughout the Engineering with Computing (E:C) curriculum at Olin College.

What is "Engineering with Computing"? Engineering with Computing (E:C) is a four-year program in engineering with a concentration in computing. It is described in the E:C FAQ, and in our paper "Designing a small-footprint curriculum in computer science", which appeared at FIE 2006.

Is Swampy courseware or a programming environment?

Both. In fact, one of the goals of Swampy is to blur the line between using software and programming. AmoebaWorld and TurtleWorld take students through a gradual introduction to programming:

  • Initially, students use a graphical user interface to control Amoebas and Turtles. At the same time they are learning the elements of the programmer interface for these objects.

  • In AmoebaWorld, students translate mathematical expressions into Python in order to control Amoebas.

  • In TurtleWorld, students write program fragments in a GUI and execute them by pressing a button.

  • Next, students write longer scripts in separate files, but run them through a GUI.

  • Later, students write stand-alone Python programs that import Swampy modules.

  • Finally, students use inheritance to modify and extend the behavior of Swampy itself.
This progression is intended to break down the barrier between users and programmers, and demonstrate a wide range of programming activities.

Parts of Swampy seem pretty bare-bones. Why doesn't it have more of the features I expect in a programming environment?

Because one of the best ways to learn to program is by reading code, so Swampy is designed to be read. For example, in many places the program is written using only the features students have already seen.

Swampy is intended to demonstrate a variety of patterns in object-oriented design. In most cases it demonstrates what I think is good design, but there are a few weaknesses I use as case studies.

Swampy is reflexive; that is, it can be used to study itself. Lumpy generates UML diagrams that help students understand the structure of Swampy, including Lumpy!

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