February 15, 2018 Functional programming playground and my WWDC17 scholarship submission.

In 2017, Apple—once again—offered students and members of STEM organizations the opportunity to attend WWDC as part of a scholarship. In contrast to the year before, Apple set out a specific yet creative task: To create a visually interactive Swift Playground, either for Xcode or iPad.

Wanting to take this opportunity, I created my own Swift Playground Book named Reduce, which teaches basic Functional Programming concepts in a playful manner. Its main feature is visualizing array operations like filter, map, and reduce to make these concept easy to comprehend.


The playground is divided into four pages: “Filter”, “Map”, “Reduce”, and “Recap”. On first three pages, the user learns how to use a new function and extends a little program to use it. The final page can be used to just fiddle around.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the live view reflects the code on the left, conveying its workings with umm… conveyors.

Screenshot of Reduce

Screenshot: Filtering, mapping, and reducing… cars?

Every time the user hits “Run My Code”, the live view is updated using the function method in the editable code area. This is to say, it is independent of the page as it allows arbitrary chaining of the three available methods. The array then “enters” the conveyor at the top, making its way down through various machines that perform an operation on each item.

How It Works

As you might have guessed, I’m using a custom array. In order to hide its creation, I call a custom visualized extension that converts a regular array in a hidden code segment. Thus, I can use standard array literals (and make them editable) without exposing my custom type.

This custom type, MachineArray, is a proxy that performs its operation on the underlying array while also serializing the operation type and sending it to the live view for recreation. In a similar fashion, it also transmits the array items and changes after an operation.

The life view itself itself is made with SpriteKit, which was a pretty enjoyable learning experience.

If you’re interested, take a look at the Playground’s source code on GitHub.

Thanks for your interest!

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