121 Syllabus, Spring 2018

Instructor: Pete Schwartz, Cal Poly Physics:, Pete’s Webpage: pschwart@calpoly.edu, x6-1220, 180-608


I wrote a short Textbook for calculus-based PHYS-141, and we are presently revising it for 121. You are welcome to use any other textbook that you may find, but the assigned reading will be from our text.


Polylearn: I do not use Polylearn to provide you with a real time view of your grade. Your grade is very easily computed consisting of your performance on three exams as long as you prepare for class watching videos, come to class and participate, and do both your projects. I grade on your understanding of the material with the intention that you will focus on increasing your understanding of the material, rather than just getting homework problems done.

Your final grade will be determined by a rubric: 40% for the final exam, 25% for each of two midterms. and 5% for each of two projects. Inside of this, you are also required watch videos for each class.. We all need you to be prepared for and engaged in class to make this a enjoyable, productive learning experience for you and the people around you.

Big Exams: Every week that we don’t have a midterm, we will have a big exam. The purpose is to simulate an exam to practice test taking and developing awareness of our emotional processes during an exam. The big exams will be collected and graded, but not counted toward your final class grade.

Exams: You are graded on your ability to communicate to me that you understand physics. Thus you will receive no credit if I can’t read or follow your logic, or if you provide no logic, but simply calculate the answer with a formula. You will earn an A, B, C, D, F, based on ability to communicate physics accordingly:

D: Provide a relevant, labeled drawing illustrating the physics being discussed. Correctly identify physics concept and provide supporting reasons a majority of the time.
C: Besides identifying underlying physics concept, consistently provide a statement indicating what is happening in the problem.
B: Besides the statement and drawing required for a C, consistently set up a method to solve the problem.
A: Besides the statement and drawing required for a C, and setting up the problem required for a B, consistently solve the problem, correctly use units and verify whether answer makes sense.
F: If you do not achieve the threshold for D

Averaging?: Because of the importance of the words “consistently” in the grading rubric, Average grade will not be calculated simply by averaging numbers as in most other classes.

Notebook: We learn with our hands. Please come prepared to think with your hands, make a labeled drawing and write down thoughts.

Videos, Preparing for Class: It is imperative that we come to class prepared. You are required to check videos and other preparation from the daily class schedule on our class website. Videos will not be posted on PlayPosit. Please watch the videos on time for every class until the end of the video and answer all the questions. You are graded for answering video questions not on getting them right. If you watch 90% of the videos on time, then you will receive full credit toward your final grade. You will receive half credit for late videos. Your final grade will be lowered by twice the % of the videos that you watch less than 90%. So if you watch 75% of the videos, your grade will be docked (90% – 75%)*2 = 0.3, or about the difference between an “A” and an “A-“. If you watch none of the videos, it will lower an “A” to about a “C”.

Problem Sets: Usually due Monday in class. These are graded A,B,C,D,F based on the above criteria. The grade is recorded, but will not be used toward your final grade. Hence, the incentive to do the homework is to learn the material for the exams and any other internal motivation such as the good times you’ll have kicking the problem around with your friends, the resilience you’ll gain in the process, and how much you’ll impress people at social gatherings when you can explain these important concepts. You may hand in your problem set as a group, stapled together. I will not collect late homework as I’ve found I usually lose them. However, you can turn in late HW in the box outside my door.

It would be a very good idea to completely understand the past homework assignments, quizzes, and midterms before each test.

Formula Sheets: You are welcome to build your own formula sheet provided it has no more than 50 ideas = formulas + statements. Any drawing counts as 10 ideas. No formulas will be provided to you for an exam. I recommend that you start a formula sheet immediately (keep it in the back of your notebook) and add material as we cover it. If you gather more than 50 items, you will need to start dropping off items that you already know.

Projects and Video: In groups of 2-4 students, you will do two projects:

– A video analysis of motion is due during week 4. Project must include displacement, speed, and acceleration graphs as a function of time, and some calculation of force, work, power, energy or conservation of momentum.

– A research project on something related to mechanics (for instance it can not be about quantum physics, electricity, light, relativity, etc.) that interests you. It may involve reading and research, or building and calculating, or doing an experiment. You will document it with a ~ 5 minute video that you will post on YouTube for the rest of the class to see. The project description link is on the main class page.

Everyone is expected to support their group’s effort toward a successful project. If you do not adequately participate, your grade will be docked accordingly. So, please find a group, have fun, and do both projects.

Midterms: Midterms cover all the material up to and including the most recent class. After each midterm, the answers (not the solutions) will be posted, in order for you to repeat the questions with perfect answers.

Competition: Your performance will be graded not against each other, but rated against the A-F criteria established above. Therefore if you help others in your class, it is good for you too. My experience has shown that a positive collaborative attitude is likely to raise everyone’s grade.

“I botched my midterm!”: If the final exam is higher than at least one midterm, it will replace the lowest midterm grade, so one bad midterm will not be detrimental to your grade. If you miss one midterm exam, the grade from the final exam will replace it.

Academic Honesty: I expect and assume that submissions with your name on it represent your work and your present physics understanding. Specifically, academic integrity in this class means:
– Exams: exam work is informed only by what arrives in your brain and on a formula sheet.
– Group Projects: Each group member does their fair share and understands the work presented.
– Video assignments: Before each class, you give the videos your full attention, and you make an honest effort to answer the questions.
– Homework and “Big Exams!”: I encourage everyone to work together and share knowledge. Please make sure you that you understand the work you hand in.
If the above is not correct, please communicate it to me, and I will work with you to help. My intention is to work with you, not against you.

I will report unresolved honesty disputes to the university.
I have my own personal conflict with this issue, which I discuss here.