Physics 221

PHYS 221

1. Catalog Entry

PHYS 221

Credit hours (4)
Prerequisites: MATH 151

Topics are studied utilizing calculus.  General Education credit-Physical and Natural Sciences.

An introduction to the Newtonian mechanics of point particles and rigid bodies. Problem solving emphasized. Calculus introduced gradually. Lab exercises to strengthen experimental skills and understanding of physical principles.

2. Detailed Description of Course

No prior knowledge of physics is assumed. The student is expected to have some facility with elementary algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. By the second or third week of the class, the concepts of instantaneous velocity and acceleration will be introduced. These will be motivated physically and, initially, the use of calculus notation will be treated as optional. As the semester proceeds, additional calculus will be used as appropriate; its explicit use in homework and test problems will, however, be sparing in PHYS 221. Vector analysis will be introduced as needed.

The major areas of mechanics which will be covered are:
    1) One-dimensional motion, including free fall
    2) Two-dimensional motion, including projectile motion
    3) Newton's laws, with extensive applications
    4) Work and energy
    5) Linear momentum and collisions
    6) Rotation of a rigid body
    7) Simple harmonic motion
    8) Gravitation

3. Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

During the lecture periods, the basic principles of mechanics are presented and explained. Every effort is made to relate these principles to the students' actual experiences. Students are encouraged to participate in classroom discussion by asking questions or by suggesting illustrations, applications, confirmations, or apparent violations of the stated principles. As much time as possible will be devoted to problem solving.  The instructional strategy used here is example and practice. Detailed solutions to typical problems are presented in class, with extensive explanation of the motivation behind the steps followed in these solutions. The student is then encouraged to understand the solution process, rather than to simply memorize the specific solutions themselves. Homework problems allow the students to practice what they have learned. They are strongly encouraged to do many problems and to wrestle with problems whose solutions do not come easily. The lab exercises are designed to reinforce the student's understanding of the basic physical principles which are discussed in the classroom and which are applied in the problems. They also serve to introduce the student to experimental procedures, data analysis, and the drawing of conclusions. Students work in groups of 2 - 4. The instructor or an assistant circulates about the room in order to observe the students' procedures, provide assistance, or pose questions for further investigation. A lab report must be submitted for each lab exercise.

4. Goals and Objectives of the Course

    1) Students will be introduced to physics - what it is, what it does, how it does it.
    2) Students will learn the principles of classical mechanics and how to relate them to real-world physical situations.
    3) Students will improve their problem ­ solving ability, in particular , their ability to solve quantitative problems which are posed verbally.
    4) Students will improve their experimental skills, in particular, their ability to take data, analyze it, and draw conclusions.

Core Curriculum Objectives (Goal 6: Physical and Natural Sciences)

Radford University students will understand the methodologies of scientific inquiry, think critically about scientific problems, and apply principles of a scientific discipline to solve problems in the natural/physical world.
Radford University students will be able to:
    1) Distinguish between findings that are based upon empirical data and those that are not.
    2) Apply scientific principles within the context of a specific scientific discipline to solve real world problems.

5. Assessment Measures

Progress toward Goals (1) and (2) above is assessed through informal discussion with students during labs and office visits, and through classroom participation. Goal (3) is assessed through homework problems, tests, and the final exam. All tests and the final exam contain problems only. The students are expected to show all significant work and will receive substantial partial credit for the correct plan of attack and for the correct application of relevant equations. Clearly, students' performances on these problems also measure their understanding of the physical principles referred to in Goal (2). Students' lab skills are assessed through observation during the lab period and through the submitted lab reports.

6. Other Course Information


Review and Approval
September 2001
June 20, 2015