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Software Design and Implementation

T2: Exploring Turtles in Python


  • Learn a bit about open source software
  • Learn some important object-oriented programming (OOP) terminology in computer science
  • Begin to learn to use turtle graphics in Python

Team assignment T2 should be explored in class with a pair partner from your team. Use your pair partner to talk together if anything is confusing. Then when we get to the point of submitting, we will take on roles.

Graphics in Python via Turtles

One of the wonderful things about Python is that it is open-source, so there are many authors who have written many modules (aka libraries) that provide powerful features. Many of these modules have become part of the standard Python install. Today's exploration is dedicated to creating graphics via a module called the turtle module.

Before we can get started, we need to digress.

Open-Source Software

Open source software is software where the original source code is made freely available and which may be redistributed and modified. Python is open source. Much great software is open-source: Linux, Firefox, Python, Wordpress, etc.

When proprietary software breaks, you get security breaches, patches, and updates, but you cannot fit it yourself or even look at the code. When open-source software breaks, you still might get patches and updates from others, but you can look at the code, and you might try to fit it yourself!

So why I am telling you this? Spyder does not seem to play nice with the screen class of the turtle module. A program which uses the screen object will run fine the first time, but then when you try to close the screen, Spyder leaves the screen in an incorrect state. So, we have two choices, switch IDEs or patch the problem. At this point, I suggest we patch it.

Here are several programs which are correct (basically from our textbook) and which should run (download by right-clicking):

Download any of these and run. It should run and display a graphics screen (window) which might end up behind the IDE.
If you run you should see something like:

our first tutle program

Next push F5 to run it again. If it runs again, great! If it crashes and tells you to restart your kernel, you can do that... But it may keep happening, which is annoying, so we want to fix the problem. If you have this problem, you will need to open by clicking on the link in the error message to
Where to click to open
I found that simply recompiling took care of this problem. You could also get drastic and comment out the actual problem (mine was on line 1239) as follows.
No raise Terminator

Either way, if you have this problem, you will want to run, so you will need to open it by clicking on the link in the error message to

We will do this in class. When running python,.py, you should see some nice images such as: first second graphic

Once you have run, go back and re-run Hopefully, the problem is now solved!

Object-oriented Terminology

Python supports an important kind of program design called object-oriented programming. I want to take this opportunity to introduce some important terminology: classes, objects, states, and methods. According to people who track these things, Java, C, C++, C#, and Python are currently the top five programming languages. Four of these languages support are object-oriented programming design techniques. In an object-oriented language, we leverage the object metaphor to organize our programs.

At this point, we have already used a class, namely the random class. We are about to use a couple more: the turtle class and the screen class. A class can be thought of as a template or a blueprint that describes objects of its type and the states as well as the behaviors that an object of its type supports. Hence, an object is simply a particular instance of a class. By using the turtle as a metaphor, we can better understand a number of importance computer science concepts.

State is a term in computer science which means a specific description of an object at a given point in time. You can imagine a turtle as an object whose tails is a pen. The state of the turtle would include such things as where it is located on the screen, how fast it is moving, which way it is traveling, what color the turtle is, etc. When the turtle moves around on the screen drawing, the state changes. Similarly, the window object has a background color which is part of its state.

An object (such as a turtle) has various things it can do (called methods) and it can also have inherent properties (called attributes). Quite a number of methods exist that allow us to modify the states of the turtle and window objects. A special method called a constructor method is used before any other in order to create a new particular instance of an object. The following commands use the constructors to make instances of the specific object:
wn = turtle.Screen()
tess = turtle.Turtle()

Once it is created, the turtle object supports behaviors such as moving forward, turning left, etc which are changed or initiated with by calling appropriate methods. One can also use methods to change some of the attributes. For example, each turtle has a color attribute. The method invocation tess.color("red") will make the instance of the specific turtle object named tess turn red, so the line that it draws will be red too.

Okay, that is probably enough with terminology for today. I expect you want to have some fun with turtles.

The Requirements and Deliverables

For the remainder of this teamwork, please use the following roles:
  • Driver/Facilitator: Reads the questions aloud, keeps track of time, and makes sure both partners contribute appropriately.
  • Navigator/Recorder: Fully contributes in discussions then records all questions and answers.
  • If there is a third partner, they should serve as a Quality Control Officer: Considers how the answers could be deeper, and how the team could work and learn more effectively.
The Navigator/Recorder should create a Microsoft Word file called yourusername(s)-T2.docx where yourusername(s) is appropriately replaced. e.g. Mine would be pearcej-rhodes-T2.docx if I am working with Matt Jadud. For example:
  • Teamwork T2 Exploring OOP and Turtles
  • Driver/Facilitator: Matt Jadud
  • Navigator/Recorder: Jan Pearce
  • Followed by answers to all of the following questions:
  1. Run all of the programs following programs: ere are several programs which are correct (basically from our textbook) and which should run (download by right-clicking):
    List all of the different methods of the screen objects used in the above programs, and briefly describe how each affects the state of the screen.
  2. List all of the methods of the turtle used in these programs, and briefly describe how each affects the state of the turtle.

  3. Next the Driver/Facilitator should rename one of the above programs yourusername(s) and do the following:
    1. Put in the following header comment with the name of the assignment, and the names and roles of all team members in a header at the top of the program. For example:
      '''Teamwork T2 Exploring OOP and Turtles
      Driver/Facilitator: Matt Jadud
      Navigator/Recorder: Jan Pearce'''
    2. Make your program draw at least two letters which represent your teamname on the screen. My team is the Jadud-Pearce team with initials JP.
    3. After you get at lest two letters which represent initials drawn, make it as fancy as you have time for. Here is mine:
      initals JP done in Python with turtles
    4. Be sure to add comments to each section (or chunk) of your code.
    In your report comment on what you and your partner(s) found most challenging in the writing of this program, explaining what was challenging about it specifically.

  4. Describe your team's reaction to the teamwork. Did you achieve the learning objectives listed at the top of the page? How might I consider ways of making it even better in the future?
Be sure ALL team members submit files named yourusername(s)-T2.docx and yourusername(s) before leaving the classroom. Also be sure all team members have exchanged these files before leaving the classroom.

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