Recent progress in logic programming (e.g., the development of the Answer Set Programming paradigm) has made it possible to teach it to general undergraduate and even middle/high school students. Given the limited exposure of these students to computer science, the complexity of downloading, installing and using tools for writing logic programs could be a major barrier for logic programming to reach a much wider audience. We developed onlineSPARC, an online answer set programming environment with a self contained file system and a simple interface. It allows users to type/edit logic programs and perform several tasks over programs, including asking a query to a program, getting the answer sets of a program, and producing a drawing/animation based on the answer sets of a program. Under consideration in Theory and Practice of Logic Programming (TPLP).


Theory and Practice of Logic Programming] onlineSPARC: a Programming Environment for Answer Set Programming111To appear in Theory and Practice of Logic Programming Marcopoulos and Zhang] ELIAS MARCOPOULOS
Tufts University, USA
Texas Tech University, USA
\jdateSeptember 2017 2018 \pagerange[References \doiS1471068401001193

S education, Logic Programming, Answer Set Programming, Integrated Development Environment, Visualization

1 Introduction

Answer Set Programming (ASP) [Gelfond and Kahl (2014)] is becoming a dominating language in the knowledge representation community [McIlraith (2011), Kowalski (2014)] because it has offered elegant and effective solutions not only to classical Artificial Intelligence problems but also to many challenging application problems. Thanks to its simplicity and clarity in both informal and formal semantics, ASP provides a “natural” modeling of many problems. At the same time, the fully declarative nature of ASP also clears a major barrier to teaching logic programming, as the procedural features of classical logic programming systems such as PROLOG are taken as the source of misconceptions in students’ learning of Logic Programming [Mendelsohn et al. (1990)].

ASP has been taught to undergraduate students in the course of Artificial Intelligence at Texas Tech for more than a decade. We believe ASP has become mature enough to be used to introduce programming and problem solving to high school students. We have offered many sessions to students at New Deal High School and a three week long ASP course to high school students involved in the TexPREP program (http://www.math.ttu.edu/texprep/). In our teaching practice, we found that ASP is well accepted by the students and the students were able to focus on problem solving, instead of the language itself. The students were able to write programs to answer questions about the relationships (e.g., parent, ancestor) amongst family members and to find solutions for Sudoku problems.

In our teaching practices, particularly when approaching high school students, we identified two challenges. One is the installation, management and use of the solvers and their development tools. The other is to find a more vivid and intuitive presentation of results (answer sets) of logic programs to inspire students’ interest in learning.

To overcome the challenges we have designed and built onlineSPARC, an online development environment for ASP. Its URL is at http://goo.gl/UwJ7Zj The environment gets rid of software installation and management. Its very simple interface also eases the use of the software. Specifically, it provides an easy to use editor for users to edit their programs, an online file system for them to store and retrieve their programs, and a few simple buttons allowing the users to query the program and to get answer sets of the program. The query capacity can also help a teacher to quickly raise students’ interest in ASP based problem solving and modeling. The environment uses SPARC [Balai et al. (2013)] as the ASP language. SPARC is designed to further facilitate the teaching of logic programming by introducing sorts (or types) which simplify the difficult programming concept of domain variables in classical ASP systems such as Clingo [Gebser et al. (2011)] and help programmers to identify errors early thanks to sort information. Initial experiment of teaching SPARC to high school students is promising [Reyes et al. (2016)].

For the second challenge, onlineSPARC introduces drawing and animation predicates for students to present their solutions to problems in a more visually straightforward and exciting manner (instead of the answer sets which are simply a set of literals). As an example, with this facility, the students can show a straightforward visual solution to a Sudoku problem. We also noted observations in literature that multimedia and visualization play a positive role in promoting students’ learning [Guzdial (2001), Clark et al. (2009)].

We have been using this environment in our teaching of AI classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels and in our outreach to middle/high schools since 2016. Preparation of documents on installation or management of the software is no longer needed. We got very few questions from students on the use of the environment, and the online system is rarely down. With onlineSPARC, one of our Master students was able to offer a short-term lesson on ASP based modeling by himself to New Deal High School students. All his preparation was on the teaching materials, but not on the software or its use.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. SPARC is recalled in Section 2. The design, implementation and a preliminary test of the online environment are presented in Section 3. The design and rendering of the drawing and animation predicates are presented in Section 4. Related work is reviewed in Section 5, and the paper is concluded in Section 6.

2 SPARC - an Answer Set Programming Language

SPARC is an Answer Set Programming (ASP) language which allows for the explicit representation of sorts. There are many excellent introduction materials on ASP including [Brewka et al. (2011)] and [Gelfond and Kahl (2014)]. We will give a brief introduction of SPARC. The syntax and semantics of SPARC can be found in [Balai et al. (2013)], and the SPARC manual and solver are freely available [Balai (2013)].

A SPARC program consists of three sections: sorts, predicates and rules. We will use the map coloring problem as an example to illustrate SPARC: can the USA map be colored using red, green and blue such that no two neighboring states have the same color?

The first step is to identify the objects and their sorts in the problem. For example, the three colors are important and they form the sort of color for this problem. In SPARC syntax, we use to represent the objects and their sort. The sorts section of the SPARC program is

sorts % the keyword to start the sorts section
  #color = {red,green,blue}.
  #state = {texas, colorado, newMexico, ......}.

The next step is to identify relations in the problem and declare in the predicates section the sorts of the parameters of the predicates corresponding to the relations. The predicates section of the program is

predicates % the keyword to start the predicates section
  % neighbor(X, Y) denotes that state X is a neighbor of state Y.
  neighbor(#state, #state).
  % ofColor(X, C) denotes that state X has color C
  ofColor(#state, #color).

The last step is to identify the knowledge needed in the problem and translate it into rules. The rules section of a SPARC program consists of rules in the typical ASP syntax. The rules section of a SPARC program will include the following.

rules  % the keyword to start the rules section
  % Texas is a neighbor of Colorado
  neighbor(texas, colorado).
  % The neighbor relation is symmetric
  neighbor(S1, S2) :- neighbor(S2, S1).
  % Any state has one of the three colors: red, green and blue
  ofColor(S, red) | ofColor(S, green) | ofColor(S, blue).
  % No two neighbors have the same color
  :- ofColor(S1, C), ofColor(S2, C),  neighbor(S1, S2), S1 != S2.
  % Every state has at most one color
  :- ofColor(S, C1), ofColor(S, C2), C1 != C2.

The current SPARC solver defines a query to be either an atom or the negation of an atom. Given a atom , is and . The answer to a ground query with respect to a program is yes if is in every answer set of , no if is in every answer set of , and unknown otherwise. An answer to a query with variables is a set of ground terms for the variables in the query such that the answer to the query resulting from replacing the variables by the corresponding ground terms is yes. Formal definitions of queries and answers to queries can be found in Section 2.2 of [Gelfond and Kahl (2014)].

The SPARC solver is able to answer queries with respect to a program and to compute one answer set or all answer sets of a program. SPARC solver translates a SPARC program into a DLV or Clingo program and then uses the corresponding solver to find the answer sets of the resulting program. When SPARC solver answers queries, it computes all answer sets of the given program. onlineSPARC directly calls the SPARC solver to get answers to a query or get answer sets.

3 Online Development Environment Design and Implementation

3.1 Environment Design

The principle of design we followed is that the environment, with the simplest possible interface, should provide full support, from writing programs to getting the answer sets of a program, in order to help with the education of Answer Set Programming.

The design of the interface is shown in Figure 1. When logged in, it consists of 3 components: 1) the editor to edit a program, 2) the file navigation system, 3) the operations (including query answering, obtaining answer sets and executing actions in the answer sets) over the program and 4) the result/display area.

Figure 1: User Interface of the System (the red numbers indicate the areas/components in the interface)

One can edit a SPARC program directly inside the editor, which has syntax highlighting features (area 1). The file inside the editor can be saved by clicking the “Save” button (2.4). The files and folders are displayed in the area 2.1. The user can traverse them using the mouse like traversing a file system on a typical operating system. Files can be deleted and their names can be changed. To create a folder or a file, one clicks the “New” button (2.3). The panel showing files/folders can be toggled by clicking the “Directory” button (2.2) (so that users can have more space for the editing or result area (4)). To ask queries to the program inside the editor, one can type a query in the text box (3.1) and then press the “Submit” button (3.1). The answer to the query will be shown in area 4. To see the answer sets of a program, click the “Get Answer Sets” button (3.2) and the result will be shown in area (4) When the “Execute” button (3.3) is clicked, a list of buttons (with number labels) will be shown and when a button is clicked, the atoms for drawing and animation in the answer set of the program corresponding to the button label will be rendered in the display area (4).

A user can only access the full interface discussed above after login. The user will log out by clicking the “Logout” button (5). Without login, the interface is much simpler, with all the file navigation related functionalities invisible. Such an interface is convenient for a quick test or demo of a SPARC program.

3.2 Implementation

The architecture of the online environment (see Fig 2) follows that of a typical web application. It consists of a front end-component and a back-end component. The front-end provides the user interface and sends users’ requests to the back-end while the back-end fulfills the request and returns results, if needed, back to the front-end. After getting the results from the back-end, the front-end will update the interface correspondingly (e.g., display query answers to the result area). Details about the components and their interactions are given below.

Front-end. The front-end is implemented with HTML and JavaScript. The editor in our front-end uses ACE which is an embeddable (to any web page) code editor written in JavaScript (https://ace.c9.io/). The panel for file/folder navigation is based on JavaScript code by Yuez.me.

Back-end and Interactions between the Front-end and the Back-end. The back-end is mainly implemented using PHP and is hosted on the server side. It has three components: 1) file system management, 2) an inference engine (SPARC solver) and 3) processors for fulfilling user interface functionalities in terms of the results from the inference engine.

Figure 2: The architecture for a simple use case: submitting a SPARC program to get the answer sets. First a SPARC program is typed in the editor of the front-end. After the “Get Answer Sets” button is pressed, the program and the command for getting answer sets are sent to the request handler in the back-end. The request handler runs the SPARC solver with the program and pipes the output (answer sets of the program) into the answer sets processor. The processor first formats the answer sets into XML and then employs XSLT to translate the XML format into an HTML ordered list element (i.e., <ol> ). The <ol> element encodes the answer sets for a user friendly display. The <ol> element is then sent to the front-end and the front-end inserts the <ol> element into the <div> element of the web page of the user interface. Because of the change of the web page, the browser will re-render the web page and the answer sets will be displayed in the result area of the user interface. For other functionalities (e.g., answering the query) in the user interface, the answer sets, the command and program are handled by their corresponding processor.

The file system management uses a database to manage the files and folders of all users of the environment. The Entity/Relationship (ER) diagram of the system is shown in Fig 3.

The SPARC files are saved in the server file system, not in a database table. The sharing is managed by the sharing information in the relevant database tables. In our implementation, we use a mySQL database system.

The file management system gets requests such as creating a new file/folder, deleting a file, saving a file, getting the files and folders, etc, from the front-end. It then updates the tables and local file system correspondingly and returns the needed results to the front-end. After the front-end gets the results, it will update the graphical user interface (e.g., display the program returned from the back-end inside the editor) if needed.

Figure 3: The Entity/Relationship (ER) diagram for file/folder management. Most names have a straightforward meaning. The Folderurl and Fileurl above refer to the full path of the folder/file in the file system.

The answer sets processors include those for generating all answer sets of a SPARC program (see details in the caption of Figure 2), for rendering a drawing/animation (see Section 4.2), and for answering queries. The processor for answering queries calls the SPARC solver to get the answers, translates the answers into a HTML element and passes the element to the front-end.

3.3 Preliminary onlineSPARC Performance Test

Given that the worst case complexity of answering a query or getting an answer set of a program is exponential, it is interesting to know how well onlineSPARC can support the programming activities commonly used for teaching and learning purposes. First, it is hard with our limited resources for onlineSPARC to support for programs related to hard search problems that need a lot of computation time, and thus onlineSPARC is not designed for an audience aiming to solve computationally hard problems and/or manage very complex programs. Second, onlineSPARC should have great support for typical programs used in teaching (for general students, including middle and high school students) and learning.

To obtain a preliminary idea on problems to test the performance of onlineSPARC, we consider the textbook by Gelfond and Khal 2014 which is a good candidate for teaching the knowledge representation methodologies based on ASP. We select, from there, the programs for the family problem and Sudoku problem which are widely used in teaching ASP. We also select the graph (map) coloring problem (which is also a popular problem in teaching ASP and constraints in AI). Programs for teaching/learning purposes usually involve smaller data sets. To make the problem more challenging we use the map data222 Particularly, we use the map/graph in the instance 0001-graph_colouring-125-0.asp. It has 125 nodes and edges. from ASP Competition 2015.

When we consider the performance of onlineSPARC, we are mainly interested in how many users it can support in a given time window and in its response time to users’ requests. Response time is defined as the difference between the time when a request was sent and the time when a response has been fully received. We employ the tool JMeter (https://jmeter.apache.org/) to carry out the performance tests. The onlineSPARC is installed on a Dell PowerEdge R330 Rack Server with CPU E3-1230 (v5 3.4GHz, 8M cache, 4Cores/8Threads), utilizing a memory of 32GB and CentOS 7.4. The server is installed with Apache/2.4.6 (HTTP server) and MySQL 14.14 (database server).

Our first test is to run 300 requests (the first 100 requests in 10 seconds, the second 100 requests in 300 seconds and the third 100 requests in 100 seconds) for the map coloring problem. Each request is to get all answer sets for the map coloring problem, for which the SPARC solver returns a message that there are too many answer sets. This test crashes the server and we have to manually reboot the server. When asking a single request without other requests, the response time is 2.2 seconds. It can be inferred from this test that onlineSPARC has limited capacity for solving hard problems in a relative short time window. Given the size of this problem (with more than 1500 edges), it is more suitable for use as a homework assignment, and not for an in-class assignment (and thus there is a shorter time window). Given a larger time window (at the level of days), onlineSPARC (on a single server) should still support a decent number of students.

To get an idea on how window size may impact onlineSPARC performance, we fix the number of requests to be 100 and change the time window. The first time window is 240s. Since the requests are evenly distributed in the time window, each request has enough time to solely occupy the server. The average response time for each request is 2.2s. When the time window becomes 60s, the maximum number of concurrent requests being attended to by the server becomes 18, and the average response time becomes 13s. When time window becomes 30s, the maximum number of concurrent requests is 91, and the average response time becomes 1023s.

When teaching in middle school and in high school, it seems that we need to combine the lecture and lab time, demonstrating and having students practice together. So, it must be possible for both teachers and students to work on the programs at the same time and in a short time window. onlineSPARC is expected to provide a good support of programs that are likely used in class teaching.

We first consider the Sudoku problem. It is possible for a teacher to demo it, but there is some chance a group of students will run it at the same time during the class. This occurrence is fine, since our tests show that 100 requests in a time window of 3s have an average response time of 7.7s.

We next consider the family problem. In our teaching experience, there has been a good chance that students will practice (parts of) this problem in class and send many requests in a relatively short period of time. With a time window of 3s, 500 requests can be processed by onlineSPARC with an average response time of 13.5s. JMeter seems to have a limit on the number of requests it can send (in a non-distributed environment), so, we didn’t test larger amounts of requests.

In summary, onlineSPARC (even on a single server with limited capacity, like our PowerEdge R330) can provide support to a good number of students with their teaching and learning activities during class (mainly because the programs used during class are computationally cheap). For harder homework problems which need more computation time than class problems, thanks to the longer time window during which students may be active, onlineSPARC may be able to support a decent number of students. In the case of the map coloring problem, assuming students work evenly over a period of 8 hours, onlineSPARC can support at least 13000 requests (with certain assumptions on the programs). On the other hand, as shown in the first test that crashes the server, a smaller number of requests (at the level of tens or hundreds of requests) for solving very hard problems, even in a time window at the level of days, could make the server unstable. To reduce the potential negative impacts of hard problems on the server, in the current onlineSPARC, the maximal timeout is 50s, with the default one being 20s. An instructor using onlineSPARC should be aware of this limitation.

4 Drawing and Animation Design and Implementation

We will first present our design of drawing/animation predicates in Section 4.1 and its implementation in Section 4.2. One full example, in SPARC, on animation will be discussed in Section 4.3. In Section 4.4, we present an “extension” (in a preprocessing manner, instead of a native manner) of SPARC to allow more teaching and learning friendly programming. We also show example programs there. In the last subsection, we provide an online link for a set of drawing/animation programs in SPARC or the “extended” SPARC.

4.1 Drawing and Animation Design

To allow programmers to create drawing and animation using SPARC, we design two predicates, called display predicates: one for drawing and one for animation. The atoms using these predicates are called display atoms. To use these atoms in a SPARC program, a programmer needs to include sorts (e.g., sort of colors, fonts and numbers) and the corresponding predicate declaration which are predefined (see Appendix). In the following, we only focus on the atoms and their use for drawing and animation. More details can be found in Section 4.3.

Drawing. A drawing predicate is of the form: draw() where is called a drawing command. Intuitively an atom containing this predicate draws texts and graphics as instructed by the command . By drawing a picture, we mean a shape is drawn with a style. We define a shape as either text or a geometric line or curve. Also, a style specifies the graphical properties of the shape it is applied to. For example, visual properties include color, thickness, and font. For modularity, we introduce style names, which are labels that can be associated with different styles so that the same style may be reused without being redefined. A drawing is completed by associating this shape and style to a certain position in the canvas, which is simply the display board. Note, the origin of the coordinate system is at the top left corner of the canvas.

Here is an example of drawing a red line from point to . First, we introduce a style name redline and associate it to the red color by the style command line_color(redline, red). With this defined style we then draw the red line by the shape command draw_line(redline, 0, 0, 2, 2). Style commands and shape commands form all drawing commands. The SPARC program rules to draw the given line are

draw(line_color(redline, red)).

draw(draw_line(redline, 0, 0, 2, 2)).

We now present the possible style and shape commands recognized in atoms like the two above.

The style commands of our system include the following:

  • line_width(sn, t) specifies that lines drawn with style name sn should be drawn with a line thickness t.

  • text_font(sn, fs, ff) specifies that text drawn with style name sn should be drawn with a font size fs and a font family ff.

  • line_cap(sn, c) specifies that lines drawn with style name sn should be drawn with a capping c, such as an arrowhead.

  • text_align(sn, al) specifies that text drawn with style name sn should be drawn with an alignment on the page al.

  • line_color(sn, c) specifies that lines drawn with style name sn should be drawn with a color c.

  • text_color(sn, c) specifies that text drawn with style name sn should be drawn with a color c.

The shape commands include the following:

  • draw_line(sn, xs, ys, xe, ye) draws a line from starting point (xs, ys) to ending point (xe, ye) with style name sn;

  • draw_quad_curve(sn, xs, ys, bx, by, xe, ye) draws a quadratic Bezier curve, with style name sn, from the start point (xs, ys) to the end point (xe, ye) using the control point (bx, by);

  • draw_bezier_curve(sn, xs, ys, b1x, b1y, b2x, b2y, xe, ye) draws a cubic Bezier curve, using style name sn, from the start point (xs, ys) to the end point (xe, ye) using the control points (b1x, b1y) and (b2x, b2y);

  • draw_arc_curve(sn, xs, ys, r, sa, se) draws an arc using style name sn and the arc is centered at (x, y) with radius r starting at angle sa and ending at angle se going in the clockwise direction;

  • draw_text(sn, x, xs, ys) prints the value of x as text to screen from point (xs, ys) using style name sn.

Animation. A frame, a basic concept in animation, is defined as a drawing. When a sequence of frames, whose content is normally relevant, is shown on the screen in rapid succession (usually 24, 25, 30, or 60 frames per second), a fluid animation is seemingly created. To design an animation, a designer will specify the drawing for each frame. Given that the order of frames matters, we give a frame a value equal to its index in a sequence of frames. We introduce the animation predicate animate() which indicates a desire to draw a picture at the frame using drawing command . The index of the first frame of an animation is always 0. The frames will be shown on the screen at a rate of 60 frames per second, and the frame will be showed at time second (from the start of the animation) for a duration of of a second.

As an example, we would like to elaborate on an animation where a red box with a side length of 10 pixels moves its top left coordinate from the point to . We will create 200 frames with the box at the point in frame.

Let the variable be of a sort called frame, defined from 0 to some large number. In every frame , we specify the drawing styling :

animate(line_color(redline, red), I).

To make a box at the frame, we need to draw the box’s four sides using the style associated with style name redline. The following describes the four sides of a box at any frame: bottom - to , left - to , top - to and right - to . Hence we have the rules





Note that the drawing predicate produces the intended drawing throughout all the frames creating a static drawing. On the other hand, the animation predicate produces a drawing only for a specific frame.

Finally, we use the atom draw(set_number_of_frames(N)) to specify that the number of frames of the animation is N.

4.2 Implementation

Informally, to achieve some drawing or animation, a programmer will write a SPARC program using display predicates. The answer sets of the SPARC program will be obtained by calling the SPARC solver. Our rendering algorithm extracts all the display atoms (intuitively instructions to make drawing) from an answer set and translates them into a JavaScript function (using HTML5 Canvas library) and a button element. The JavaScript and button will be used by the browser to show the drawing or animation.

The architecture for rendering the drawing and animation specified by a SPARC program is shown in Fig 4. The main rendering component is the processor inside the dashed box in the back-end. As a simple use case, a user will type, in the editor in the front-end, a SPARC program to specify the intended drawing or animation using the predicates introduced in the previous section. The user then presses the “Execute” 333The reason we use “Execute”, instead of display, is that SPARC can be used to specify many other actions in addition to actions to draw and animate. By “Execute”, we mean to execute all actions in the answer set(s) of a SPARC program. For now, we can only execute actions for drawing and animation. button in the web page. The command and the SPARC program are sent to the request handler at the back-end. The handler runs the SPARC solver with the program and pipes the output (answer sets of the program) into the drawing and animation processor. The processor first checks if there are any errors in the display atoms. An example of error is a typo in the name of a shape command. The processor then produces an HTML program segment and passes it to the front-end which will insert the segment to the current web page. The browser, equipped with HTML5 Canvas capacity, will use this segment to allow use to navigate and see the drawing/animation for each answer set.

Figure 4: The architecture diagram of our online environment with the processor (in the dashed box) for drawing and animation.

We now discuss the details of the algorithm for the processor. The input to the translation algorithm is a SPARC program . Let the number of answer sets of be . The output is an HTML5 program segment that consists of a canvas element, a script element containing JavaScript code of animation functions, and a sequence of buttons each of which has a number on it. Informally, the display atoms in the answer set of are rendered by the animation function. When a button with label is clicked, the web browser (supporting HTML5 canvas methods) will invoke/execute the animation function in the script element (to render the display atoms in the answer set of ).

In the following, we will use an example to demonstrate how a drawing command is implemented by JavaScript code using canvas methods. Consider two display atoms

draw(line_color(redline, red)).

draw(draw_line(redline, 0, 0, 2, 2)).

When we render the shape command draw_line, we need to know the meaning of the redline style. From the style command line_color, we know it means red. In the JavaScript program, we first create a context object ctx for a given canvas (simply identified by a name) where we would like to render the display atoms. The object offers methods to render the graphics in the canvas. We then use the following JavaScript code to implement the shape command to draw a line from (0,0) to (2,2):





To make the line in red color, we have to insert the following JavaScript statement before the ctx.stroke() in the code above:


The meaning of the canvas methods in the code above is straightforward, so we don’t explain them further. Now we are in a position to present the algorithm.


  • Input: a SPARC program .

  • Output: an HTML program segment which allows the rendering of the display atoms in all answer sets of in an Internet Browser.

  • Steps:

    1. Call SPARC solver to obtain the answer sets of .

    2. Add to the following HTML elements

      • the canvas element <canvas id="myCanvas" width="500" height="500"> </canvas>.

      • the script element <script> </script>

      • insert, into the script element, a JavaScript function, denoted by , which contains code associating the drawings in the script element with the canvas element above.

    3. For each answer set of ,

      1. Extract all display atoms from .

      2. Let be an array of empty strings. will hold the JavaScript statements to render the graphics for frame .

      3. For each display atom in ,

        • If any syntax error is found in the display atoms, terminate with an output being an error message detailing the incorrect usage of the atoms.

        • If contains a shape command, let its style name be , find all style commands defining . For each style command, translate it into the corresponding JavaScript code on modifying the styling of the canvas pen (an HTML Canvas concept). Then translate the shape command into JavaScript code that renders that command. Let be the proper combination of and to render .

          • if is an drawing atom, append to for every frame of the animation.

          • if is an animation atom, let be the frame referred to in . Append to .

      4. let be the answer set (). Create a JavaScript function animate(i-1)() whose body consisting of

        • an array initialized by the content of array, and

        • generic Javascript code executing the statements in when the time to show frame starts.

      5. append animate(i-1) to the end of body of the function in the script element of .

    4. Let be the number of the answer sets of . For each number , create a button element containing the number and associating the click of the button to the name of the animation function animate(). An example button element is

      <button onclick="animate2()"> 2 </button>.

      Append this list of button elements to the end of .

End of algorithm.

4.3 Moving Box Elaboration under SPARC

In order to use the drawing and animation predicate design of draw(c) and animate(c, I) a SPARC program requires corresponding predicate declarations, which in turn require the definition of many sorts, to establish a basis for animation to occur. In this section, we will first present the predicate declarations and sort definitions, and then discuss how to write a SPARC program for the earlier example of a box moving from (1,70) to (200,70) over 200 frames. We will also add to the moving box example a title, to demonstrate how static drawings can be used together with animations.

4.3.1 Predicate Declarations and Sort Definitions

First let us look at some important parameters for drawing and animation. The values of these parameters are defined using the SPARC directive #const:

#const canvasWidth = 500.
#const canvasHeight = 500.
#const canvasSize = 500.
#const numFrames = 200.

Here we have defined some constants for the dimension of the canvas and the number of frames that will be used later in sort definitions, making it easier to understand the purpose of certain sorts. We will be using a canvas with a dimension of 500 by 500 pixel size, and we will animate for 200 frames. These values can be changed by programmers in terms of their needs. Note that canvasSize must be the smaller of canvasWidth and canvasHeight. Now we begin the sorts section:

    #frame = 0..numFrames.

    #drawing_command =
        #line_cap+#text_align+#line_color+#text_color +

We have defined two sorts, one is a simple set of integers, corresponding with the frames of an animation. We use the sort name frame, but it is important to note that this name and other sort names introduced below are not predefined and thus can be changed by the programmer, as long as they are changed in a consistent way across the SPARC program. The second sort, drawing_command, defines all the drawing commands introduced earlier in our design. It is the union (represented as + in SPARC) of the sorts defining shape commands the style commands. The sort names for the shape commands are prefixed with draw_, and The sort names for the style commands are prefixed with line_ or text_. Let us examine the definitions of these sorts:

    % sorts for shape commands

    #draw_line = draw_line(#stylename,#col,#row,#col,#row).

    #draw_quad_curve =

    #draw_bezier_curve =

    #draw_arc_curve =

    #draw_text = draw_text(#stylename,#text,#col,#row).

    % sorts for the style commands

    #line_width = line_width(#stylename,#thickness).

    #text_font = text_font(#stylename,#fontsize,#fontfamily).

    #line_cap = line_cap(#stylename,#cap).

    #text_align = text_align(#stylename,#alignment).

    #line_color = line_color(#stylename,#color).

    #text_color = text_color(#stylename,#color).

    % sort to set the number of frames

    #set_number_of_frames = set_number_of_frames(#frame).

Each of these sorts takes the form of what is called a record in SPARC. A record is built from a record name and a list of other sorts. For example, the sort #draw_line defines all shape commands of drawing lines. Recall from Section 4.1 the line drawing command is of the form draw_line(sn, xs, ys, xe, ye) which draws a line from starting point (xs, ys) to ending point (xe, ye) with style name sn. The record name of the sort #draw_line is draw_line and is followed by the sorts for each parameter: #stylename for sn, #col for xs and ys, #row for ys and ye. Since the sorts above all contain record names that are recognized by the animation software as specific drawing commands, no record names should be modified, or the results of an executed animation will not be as expected.

Each of the records above uses other basic sorts such as #stylename. We will touch on only a few here:

    #stylename = {......}.

    #text = {......}.

    #row = 1..canvasHeight.
    #col = 1..canvasWidth.

    #color = {black, blue, green}.

The sort #stylename consists of the names for styles the programmers would like to apply to their animation later on. The style name sort is important, as it is something a programmer can manipulate freely, to include as many styles for different objects in an animation as is desired by the programmer. For now, we do not have predefined styles and we do not put any names here. The sort #text consists of all the strings that will be used in an animation. As a limitation of SPARC, we are not able to represent strings containing spaces. We approximate a string by constant. These, like the style name sort elements, are decided upon by the programmer. So, we do not include specific elements in the definition above.

The other sorts defined above, as well as all other basic sorts not defined above, have much more restricted values. The row and col sorts must contain numerical values, although those values can be decided upon by the programmer, as can all numerical sorts used. For example, the definition of #row being 1..canvasHeight means that the sort #row contains all integers from 1 to the value of constant canvasHeight.

The sort #color contains only a small sample of colors available. All color names used by a programmer must be from a predefined set of accepted colors. To see a complete definition of all accepted colors of the #color sort and other basic sorts such as font sorts #fontfamily, a complete listing can be found in the appendix. Moving on from sorts we may continue with the predicates section:

    % drawing command applies at specified frame
    animate(#drawing_command, #frame).

    % static drawing command

Here we have defined two predicates, one for static drawings and one for animations. They both take a drawing_command to execute if a corresponding atom exists in the answer set of the executed program. The animate predicate also takes a frame.

4.3.2 Write a SPARC Program for the Moving Box Example

To write a SARPC program for the moving box example, programmers have to include the definition of parameters (found in the earlier subsection) and include all the predicate declarations and the associated sort definitions (found either in the earlier subsection or in the appendix) into the predicates section and sorts section. They can simply copy and paste those constructs into the right sections of their program.

The programmers have to populate the two sorts #stylename and #text. For our example, we define them, in the sorts section, as follows:

    #stylename = {redline, title}.
    #text = {aDemonstrationOfAMovingRedBox}.

The new style name, title is the style we will use to print the text on screen. The element in the #text sort is the text to show.

The rules section below concludes the example, and is responsible for the actual animation of a box moving beneath the demonstration title.


    draw(text_font(title, 18, arial)).
    draw(text_color(title, blue)).

    draw(draw_text(title, aDemonstrationOfAMovingRedBox, 5, 25)).

    animate(line_color(redline, red), I).

    animate(draw_line(redline, I+1, 70, I+11, 70), I).
    animate(draw_line(redline, I+1, 70, I+1, 60), I).
    animate(draw_line(redline, I+1, 60, I+11, 60), I).
    animate(draw_line(redline, I+11, 60, I+11, 70), I).

The first line sets the number of frames of the animation. The second and third lines signify that the style name title means a style of blue arial font of size of 18. The next line signifies that aDemonstrationOfAMovingRedBox should be drawn with the style of title at position (5, 25). The constant will be shown from (5, 25) with the blue arial font of size 18. This completes the title display. As one can see, drawings are simple, since they do not occur over time, but simply exist in the canvas. Thus, the title does not need to be associated with any frames, and will be present as expected throughout any animation.

The next lines have to do with animating the red box from (1, 70) to (200, 70). We begin by setting the style (readline) to be red. Note that the variable I can take on the value of any item in the sort frame, 0 through numFrames. Thus, one can expect in the answer set one atom per frame that styles the redline style to be red.

The next four lines correspond to the four sides of the box. For each frame I, four atoms are expected to exist of the form animate(draw_line(redline, coordinates), I), corresponding to the four sides of the box, meaning that the animation will include a drawing of four lines at each frame. If one looks closely at the rules, one can see that I is used in the rule to calculate the starting and ending x coordinate of the sides of the box. This means that as the frame increases, so will the starting and ending coordinates, causing the box to appear to move in the positive x direction, which is to the right.

4.4 Design Facilitating Teaching

From the examples given in earlier subsections, one may see that the programs are unnecessarily complex due to the syntax restriction of SPARC: a program has to contain the sort definitions and declarations for display predicates. However, for teaching purpose, students are expected to focus mainly on the substance of drawing and animation, instead of the tedious sort definitions and declarations of display predicates.

In principle, the sort definitions and declarations of display predicates should be written by their designers, while programmer should simply be able to use them. To follow this principle, we introduce the #include directive, as in the C language, which includes a specified file into the file containing the directive. With this mechanism, the designer can provide a file containing the sort definitions, predicate declarations and common rules, and the programmer can simply include this file in their program.

For this approach, there is a challenge. As one can see, the sort #stylename (and #text) is expected to be defined by programmers, but it is used by the signature of the display predicates. It is further complicated by the following expectation: we would like to provide a default set of style names to further simplify the programming tasks for novices so that they can focus on the logic and substance of drawing/animation. To achieve the requirement and expectation above, we introduce a subtype Pierce (2002), called subsort here, with the following syntax

extend sortName with {setElements}.

where the bold courier fonts are keywords, sortName is a sort name and setElements is a sequence of elements separated by comma. An example of a subsort statement is

extend #stylename with {redPen, blackPen}.

which means that the sort #stylename contains redPen and blackPen.

Now we will use an example to show the meaning and use of the include directive and subsorts. The designer of the display predicates may produce a file drawing.sp containing the following

   % introduce the default style names
   extend #stylename with {
     redPen, blackPen


   % define the default style names
   draw(text_color(redPen, red)).

In this file, default style names, e.g., redPen, are introduced using subsort statement, and the style redPen is associated to the color red by the first rule.

A user program may be

% <drawing.sp> below means the file drawing.sp in the system folder of onlineSPARC
#include <drawing.sp>
   % introduce our own style name
   extend #stylename with {
   % introduce the text we would like to display
   extend #text with {


   % define our style
   draw(text_color(myPen, green)).

   % make drawing using a default style redPen and our style myPen
   draw(draw_text(redPen,drawingAAndAnimation, 10, 10)).
   draw(draw_text(myPen,drawingAAndAnimation, 10, 30)).

In this program, the new style name myPen is introduced using a subsort statement and it is defined as green by the first rule.

Our design is implemented through a preprocessor whose output is a classical SPARC program. When the preprocessor sees the directive to include the file drawing.sp, it will include the contents of the sections of drawing.sp into the beginning of the corresponding sections of file . However, the subsort statements will not be included. For each sort name occurring in a subsort statement, the preprocessor will maintain a list of all its subsorts. The meaning of a sort with subsorts is the union of all its subsorts. After scanning (and thus all included files), for each sort with subsorts , the preprocessor inserts the following sort definition in the beginning of the sorts section:

In our example, the file (not including comments or basic drawing/animation sorts and predicates) after preprocessing is

   #stylename = {redPen, blackPen} + {myPen}.
   #text = {drawingAndAnimation}.

   draw(text_color(redPen, red)).
   draw(text_color(myPen, green)).

   % make drawing
   draw(draw_text(redPen,drawingAAndAnimation, 10, 10).
   draw(draw_text(myPen,drawingAAndAnimation, 10, 20).

Once a sort name occurs in a subsort statement, it will be an error to define this sort name using =.

4.4.1 Default Styles and Default Values of any Style

We will first introduce the default styles onlineSPARC currently offers, give an example using default and user defined styles, and discuss how the default values of the styles (default or user defined) are set using ASP rules.

The current onlineSPARC offers regular, thin and thick styles. The regular styles include redPen, blackPen, greenPen. These styles are always associated with a color as shown in their name. When they are applied to draw_text command, they use arial font with a font size of 11. When they are applied to other drawing commands, they use a line width of 2 points.

The thin styles include redPenThin, blackPenThin, greenPenThin. They are similar to regular styles except that they are thinner. When applied to draw_text, they use font size of 10, and when applied to other drawing commands, they use a line width of 1 point.

The thick styles include redPenThick, blackPenThick, greenPenThick. They are similar to regular styles except that they are thicker. When applied to draw_text, they use font size of 12, and when applied to other drawing commands, they use a line width of 3 point.

To model the example in Section 4.3.2, we have to specify the animation length, i.e., the number of frames for our animation. We define our own constant myFrames for this number. Note that with this local constant, we have to add the constraints on the animation length into each rule. Now a complete program, using the include directive (assuming the header file for drawing and animation is called drawing.sp) and subsorts, for the example in Section 4.3.2 is

#include <drawing.sp>.
#const myFrames = 60.
   extend #stylename with {title}.
   extend #text with {aDemonstrationOfAMovingRedBox}.

   % associate title style with 18-point arial font and blue color
   draw(text_color(title, blue)).
   draw(text_font(title, 18, arial)).

   draw(draw_text(title, aDemonstrationOfAMovingRedBox, 5, 25)).

   animate(draw_line(redPen, I+1, 70, I+11, 70), I) :- I <= myFrames.
   animate(draw_line(redPen, I+1, 70, I+1, 60), I) :- I <= myFrames.
   animate(draw_line(redPen, I+1, 60, I+11, 60), I) :- I <= myFrames.
   animate(draw_line(redPen, I+11, 60, I+11, 70), I) :- I <= myFrames.

This new program contains minimal distraction, and the substantial information for drawing and animation stands out.

We will next discuss how the default values for default or user defined styles are set. For a style for text drawing, there are four aspects resulting from the style commands: color, font, font size and alignment. For a style for line drawing, there are three aspects: color, line width and line cap. It is well known that ASP is good at representing defaults. We use an example of the color of a style to illustrate how the default value is associated to the color of the style: normally the text color of a style is black.

We introduce to mean that some non default value (say red) has been associated to the text color of style (through style command text_color). So, we have rule

nonDefaultValueDefined_drawing(X, txtColor) :-
                 draw(text_color(X, Y)), Y != black.

A style has a text color of black if it does not have a non-default color associated:

draw(text_color(X, black)) :-
                 not nonDefaultValueDefined_drawing(X, txtColor).

We have similar rules for the styles related to animation predicate:

nonDefaultValueDefined_animation(X, txtColor, I) :-
                 animate(text_color(X, Y), I), Y != black.
animate(text_color(X, black), I) :-
                 not nonDefaultValueDefined_animation(X, txtColor, I).

The default values of styles are defined as follows. The default value of the color (text or line) of a style is black, that of font and font size are arial and 11 point, that of text alignment is left, that of line width is 2 points, and that of line cap is butt.

Finally, one may note that we allow defining a style using the animate predicate. That means the same style name may refer to different values of its properties (e.g., color or font) in different frames. It allows one to use the same style name to represent some changing properties (which might not be known priori) without the need of introducing all style names for the changing properties. An example is a moving line growing fat. The growing effect is achieve by changing the width of the line bigger. Two rules are needed (assuming the number of frames is smaller than 100):

% specify the style growingLine
animate(line_width(growingLine,J),I) :- J = I/6+1.
% draw a line using grawingLine style
animate(draw_line(growingLine, 2*I+1, 110, 2*I+71, 110), I).

By default, the style defined by the draw predicate will be used only for the drawing command inside the draw predicate. However, sometimes we may want the styles defined using draw to be usable in frames. In this case, at any frame , for any style and property of the frame, we would like to use the value of property of style as defined in draw unless of takes a value other than by animate at frame . The expectation above can be represented naturally by ASP rules. The following is an example on line color property.

ΨstyleDefinedInFrame(X, lineColor, I) :-
Ψ    Ψdraw(line_color(X, Value)),
Ψ    Ψanimate(line_color(X, V1), I),
Ψ    ΨV1 != Value.
Ψanimate(line_color(X, Value), I) :-
Ψ    Ψdraw(line_color(X, Value)),
Ψ    Ψnot styleDefinedInFrame(X, lineColor, I).

The atom styleDefinedInFrame(X, lineColor, I) means that style X has a line color defined, different from the one defined for X in the draw predicate, in frame I. The first rule is a straightforward definition of styleDefinedInFrame. The second rule says that the color of style X is also Value at frame I if Value is the color of X by draw, and there is no style command defining the color of X to be different from Value in frame I. Programmers can include such rules in their program. In <drawing.sp>, we have introduced general rules to make a style defined by draw to be usable in any frame, in a manner as illustrated above.

4.5 More Drawing/Animation Example Programs

More example programs for drawing and animation can be found at https://goo.gl/nLD4LD. Some of the programs use the extended SPARC and some use the original SPARC. Some examples show different ways to write drawing and animation programs using the original SPARC.

5 Related Work

As ASP has been applied to more and more problems, the importance of ASP software development tools has been realized by the community. Some integrated development environment (IDE) tools, e.g., APE Sureshkumar et al. (2007), ASPIDE Febbraro et al. (2011), iGROM iGROM (iGROM) and SeaLion Oetsch et al. (2013) have previously been developed. They provide a graphical user interface for users to carry out a sequence of tasks from editing an ASP program to debugging that program, easing the use of ASP significantly. However, the target audience of these tools is experienced software developers. Compared with the existing environments, our environment is online, self contained (i.e., fully independent of the users’ local computers) and provides a very simple interface, focusing on teaching only. The interface is operable by any person who is able to use a typical web site and traverse a file system.

As for drawing and animation, our work is based on the work of Cliffe et al. Cliffe et al. (2008). They are the first to introduce, to ASP, a design of display predicates and to render drawings and animations using the program ASPviz. Our drawing commands are similar to theirs. The syntax of their animation atoms is not clear from their paper. It seems (from examples on github at goo.gl/kgUzJK accessed on 4/30/2017) that multiple answer sets may be needed to produce an animation. In our work we use a design where the programmers are allowed to draw at any frame (specifying a range of the frames) and the real time difference between two neighboring frames is 1/60 second. Another clear difference is that our implementation is online while theirs is a standalone software. A more recent system, Kara, a standalone software by Kloimullner et al. Kloimüllner et al. (2013), deals with drawing only. Another system ARVis Ambroz et al. (2013) offers methods to visualize the relations between answer sets of a given program. We also note an online environment for IDP (which is a knowledge representation paradigm close to ASP) by Dasseville and Janssens 2015. It also utilizes a very simple interface for the IDP system and allows drawing and animation using IDP through IDPD3 (a library to visualize models of logic theories) by Lapauw et al. 2015. In addition to drawing and animation, IDPD3 allows user interaction (e.g., a user inputted click that affects the current animation) with the IDP program (although in a limited manner in its current implementation), which is absent from most other systems including ours.

As for online systems, in addition to IDP mentioned earlier, there are several others. Both DLV and Clingo offer online environments (http://asptut.gibbi.com/ and http://potassco.sourceforge.net/clingo.html respectively) which provide an editor and a window to show the direct output of the execution of DLV and Clingo command, but provide no other functionalities. We also noted SWISH444http://lpsdemo.interprolog.com which offers an online environment for Prolog and a more recent computer language Logic-based Production Systems Kowalski and Sadri (2016). A recent online system LoIDE Germano et al. (2018) allows a user to edit ASP programs and find answer sets of the programs. LoIDE allows a programmer to highlight names in answer sets.

The key differences between our environment and the other online systems are: onlineSPARC offers queries to programs, an online file system, and the support of the language SPARC. We found that query answering allows us to teach (particularly to general students) the basics of Logic Programming without first fully explaining the concept of answer sets. Few online ASP systems offer capacity for drawing and animation.

As for teaching high school students using ASP and visualization, we noted the work by Dovier et al. 2016. They introduced specially designed visual tools to visualize the answer sets produced from the ASP programs for a Rubik’s Cube puzzle, the N-queen problem and planning/scheduling problems.

6 Conclusion and Discussion

When we outreached to a local high school several years ago, even with the great tool ASPIDE, we needed an experienced student to communicate with the school lab several times before the final installation of the software on their computers could be completed. A carefully drafted document was prepared for students to install the software on their computers. There were still unexpected issues when students used/installed the software at home and thus they lost the opportunity to practice programming outside of class. The flow of teaching the class was often interrupted by the problems or issues associated with the use of the tools. Thus, the strong technical support needed for the management and use of the tools inside and outside of the class was and still is prohibitive for teaching ASP to general undergraduate or K-12 students.

With the availability of our online environment, we now only need to focus on teaching the content of ASP without worrying about the technical support. We hope our environment, and other online environments for knowledge representation systems, will expand the teaching of knowledge representation to a much wider audience in the future.

The drawing and animation features are relatively new features of onlineSPARC and have not been tested in high school teaching. However, we have used the drawing and animation features in a senior year course – special topics in AI – in Spring 2017 at Texas Tech University. Students demonstrated strong interests in drawing and animation (more than in the representation and reasoning with a family) and they were able to produce interesting animations. In the example link given earlier, we include an example produced by a team of this class to produce a vivid animation demonstrating geometric transformations including translation, reflection and rotation. The instructor provided the team only necessary information on doing drawings and animations not more than presented here in Section 4.3. (We did not have the include directive and subsort statement then.) The team found the topic and project idea themselves (the context is that every team in the class was asked to find and solve problems from Science, Math and Arts at the secondary school level).

Unlike the darwing and animation features, we have been using the general online environment in our teaching of AI classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels and in our outreach to local school districts including middle and high schools. The outreach includes offering short term lessons or demonstration to teachers or district administrators. onlineSPARC was first installed on an Amazon AWS server and later installed on a local server. According to Google Analytics from May 2016 to September 2017, there are 1206 new users added and there are accesses from 41 countries. The top three countries with the most accesses are USA, UK and Russia.

We noted that it can be very slow for ASP solvers to produce the answer sets of an animation program when the space for its ground instance is big. The space depends on the canvas size, number of frames and the number of parameters of a drawing command. As an example, assume we have a canvas size of 1000 and produce 1000 frames. If we use the following atom in the head of a rule,

animate(draw_bezier_curve(redPen, X1, Y1, X2, Y2, X3, Y3, X4, y4), I),

where (X1, Y1), ..., (X4, Y4) are four points and I is a frame index, the possible ground instances will be at the level of . We would like to see research progress on any aspect of dealing with ASP programs with large space of ground instances.

For the include directive and subsort statements, they are only part of the the onlineSPARC environment, but not a part of the official SPARC language. The current needs from drawing and animation programs provide compelling reasons to reexamine SPARC to see how best it can be refined to support the need. The very preliminary work reported in this paper on the preprocessor based extension of SPARC indicates some promising directions in refining SPARC. In the future, we would like to have a thorough and rigorous study of introducing the subtype (subsort) and the #include directive into SPARC. We would also like to examine the use of type inference in SPARC which we believe may enjoy the benefits of both world of sorted ASP and non-sorted ASP, while also providing students better learning experiences and providing support for the development and maintenance of programs for practical applications in the real world.

It is not technically hard to allow other ASP systems such as DLV or Clingo in onlineSPARC. The addition of them into onlineSPARC may further promote its use in a much wider audience. Since our display predicates are nothing more or less than a predicate in any ASP program, they can be directly used in a DLV or Clingo program. Our rendering algorithm, with minimal changes on recognizing the minor differences between the format of the answer sets of the SPARC solver and those of the DLV/Clingo solver, can be applied to DLV or Clingo programs.

The error/warning messages from a programming environment are important for general programming learners. The current onlineSPARC simply passes the error report from the SPARC solver to the users. It is an ongoing work to make the error report more friendly and understandable by a general audience, and to make correction suggestions for some syntax and semantic errors (e.g., a typo of a constant of a sort).

There has been a notable effort in designing tools to help debug ASP programs (e.g., Dodaro et al. (2015)). It will be interesting to see how well those tools can be integrated into an online ASP environment and how the integrated environment may help students in learning programming.


The authors were partially supported by the National Science Foundation (grant# CNS-1359359). We thank Christian Reotutar, Evgenii Balai, Mbathio Diagne, Peter Lee, Maede Rayatidamavandi, Crisel Suarez, Edward Wertz and Shao-Lon Yeh for their contribution to the implementation of the environment. Christian Reotutar also contributed to the early preparation of this paper. We thank Michael Gelfond and Yinan Zhang for their input and help. We thank the anonymous reviewers whose feedback helps to improve the quality of this paper as well as that of onlineSPARC.


onlineSPARC provides a standard header file <drawing.sp>. We include here its major sort definitions and predicate declarations which use the “extended” SPARC program. Programmers can find, from the sorts definitions here, specific constants for colors, fonts, sizes, line endings and text alignments etc. We don’t include the rules of <drawing.sp> that set the default values for style names. Those rules are discussed in Section 4.4.1.

As shown in the example in Section 4.3 and some examples in the link given in Section 4.5, more advanced programmers can choose not to use the “extension” of SPARC (i.e., the include directive or subsorts) or to include <drawing.sp> when writing drawing/animation applications. As long as the programmers use the constants (not the #const macro, but the constant objects of the sorts), style command, shape command and display predicates as defined here, the answer sets of their programs can be correctly rendered by our algorithms. As an example, they can use their own names for the sorts (instead of sort names given below) and/or #const names.

% canvas constants
#const canvasWidth = 500.
#const canvasHeight = 500.
#const canvasSize = 500.
#const numFrames = 60.

  % We use extend to define the default style names
   extend #stylename with
       % the normal pens
       redPen, greenPen, bluePen, blackPen,
       % the thin pens
       redPenThin, greenPenThin, bluePenThin, blackPenThin,
       % the thick pens
       redPenThick, greenPenThick, bluePenThick, blackPenThick

  % We use extend to define the texts we would like to print
  extend #text with {a, b, c, d}.

  #frame = 0..numFrames.

  #row = 1..canvasHeight.
  #col = 1..canvasWidth.

  #angle = 1..16.

  #radius = 1..canvasSize.

  #thickness = 1..canvasSize.

  #fontsize = 8..72.

  #fontfamily = {georgia,palatino,antiqua,

  #cap = {butt,round,square}.

  #alignment = {left,right,center,start,end}.

  #color = {black,blue,green,

  % sorts for shape commands

  #draw_line = draw_line(#stylename,#col,#row,#col,#row).

  #draw_quad_curve =

  #draw_bezier_curve =

  #draw_arc_curve =

  #draw_text = draw_text(#stylename,#text,#col,#row).

  % sorts for style commands

  #line_width = line_width(#stylename,#thickness).

  #text_font = text_font(#stylename,#fontsize,#fontfamily).

  #line_cap = line_cap(#stylename,#cap).

  #text_align = text_align(#stylename,#alignment).

  #line_color = line_color(#stylename,#color).

  #text_color = text_color(#stylename,#color).

  #drawing_command =



Note that the sort #color above contains a small set of all colors allowed. All allowed color names are: black, navy, darkBlue, mediumBlue, blue, darkGreen, green, teal, darkCyan, deepSkyBlue, darkTurquoise, mediumSpringGreen, lime,
springGreen, aqua, cyan, midnightBlue, dodgerBlue, lightSeaGreen,
forestGreen, seaGreen, darkSlateGray, darkSlateGrey, limeGreen,
mediumSeaGreen, turquoise, royalBlue, steelBlue, darkSlateBlue,
mediumTurquoise, indigo, darkOliveGreen, cadetBlue, cornflowerBlue,
rebeccaPurple, mediumAquaMarine, dimGray, dimGrey, slateBlue, oliveDrab,
slateGray, slateGrey, lightSlateGray, lightSlateGrey, mediumSlateBlue,
lawnGreen, chartreuse, aquamarine, maroon, purple, olive, gray, grey,
skyBlue, lightSkyBlue, blueViolet, darkRed, darkMagenta, saddleBrown,
darkSeaGreen, lightGreen, mediumPurple, darkViolet, paleGreen, darkOrchid,
yellowGreen, sienna, brown, darkGray, darkGrey, lightBlue, greenYellow,
paleTurquoise, lightSteelBlue, powderBlue, fireBrick, darkGoldenRod,
mediumOrchid, rosyBrown, darkKhaki, silver, mediumVioletRed, indianRed,
peru, chocolate, tan, lightGray, lightGrey, thistle, orchid, goldenRod,
paleVioletRed, crimson, gainsboro, plum, burlyWood, lightCyan, lavender,
darkSalmon, violet, paleGoldenRod,
lightCoral, khaki, aliceBlue, honeyDew, azure, sandyBrown, wheat, beige, whiteSmoke, mintCream, ghostWhite, salmon, antiqueWhite, linen, lightGoldenRodYellow, oldLace, red, fuchsia, magenta, deepPink, orangeRed, tomato, hotPink, coral, darkOrange, lightSalmon,
orange, lightPink, pink, gold, peachPuff, navajoWhite, moccasin, bisque,
mistyRose, blanchedAlmond, papayaWhip, lavenderBlush, seaShell, cornsilk,
lemonChiffon, floralWhite, snow, yellow, lightYellow, ivory,
and white.


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