Modern programming exercises

Modern programming exercises with the Atlas toolkit #

Nowadays, almost all young people have a smartphone, so they are used to graphical interfaces. They rarely, if ever, had to deal with a text console. Writing programs with a textual interface, they may (falsely) find this outdated and therefore not very motivating.

Example of a programming exercise with textual interface:

A CLI-based programming exercise

An exercise consists, for the students, in writing a program to perform a given task. To check that the program is working properly, they will have to modify its parameters. This is usually done by modifying these parameters directly in the source code, or by entering their value at runtime with the help of instructions such as input(…) (if using Python), or also by handling this parameters as command-line arguments.

With a web interface, they will have a real graphical interface to enter the values of the different parameters. This is much more convenient, and also much closer to what they are used to with their smartphones. By using the Atlas toolkit, they can even use an online IDE such as Replit, so they don’t have to set up a development environment to make the exercises.

Same exercise as above with a graphical interface made with the Atlas toolkit:

The same exercice with a gui

The Atlas toolkit also allows programs to be easily accessible from devices like smartphones. By simply scanning a QR code, students can access their own programs on their smartphone, and share this access with others simply by sending them an URL.

Here are some examples of exercises made with the Atlas toolkit. .They are based on Python, but other language can be used:

This examples are for true beginners. That is, despite using a GUI, the students don’t have to directly program this GUI.

The Atlas toolkit is simple enough to be used by beginners once they are more comfortable with programming. Here is the kind of program they can then make:

‘Four in a row’ with GUI

‘Mancala’ with GUI

This are text-based programs from The Big Book of Small Python Projects by Al Sweigart, to which a GUI have been added using the Atlas toolkit. More can be found here:

A list of articles about using the Atlas toolkit to make programming exercises can be found here.