121 Syllabus Winter 2019

Link to Main Class Website

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

Diversity, Inclusivity, Sustainability: Cal Poly’s mission statement includes “…Cal Poly values free inquiry, cultural and intellectual diversity, mutual respect, civic engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.” Issues of diversity, inclusivity, and environmental responsibility have recently taken on great importance, globally as well as at Cal Poly. As an instructor, I wish to nurture awareness of how our actions affect others, near and far. I strive to maintain a classroom environment in which meaningful dialogue and debate is encouraged. I welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, religious affiliations, abilities—and any other visible and non-visible differences. In any decision-making process, we will remind ourselves that our knowledge is not complete and that we can benefit from other perspectives that contrast our own. I believe that good problem solving is inclusive, requiring application of empathy, critical thinking, and ethics to all aspects of the problem-solving process. Lastly, I think it’s our responsibility to make the world a happier place – all of us, all the time.

Textbook: I wrote a short textbook for this class. It is linked to the main class website. 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 as determined by exams. The reason I do this is so that you will focus on increasing your understanding of the material rather than just getting homework problems done. Of course, students who do homework score better on the exams.

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: Make a drawing and correctly identify an appropriate physics concept and provide reasons supporting this concept a majority of the time.
C: Besides identifying underlying physics concept, consistently provide a statement indicating what is happening in the problem. Provide a relevant, labeled drawing illustrating the physics being discussed.
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 – drawing, taking notes. I encourage you to keep a notebook. 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. Video assignments 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 – so relax, enjoy, learn. 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”.

Other: We will do an Empathy Reflection in Week 6. Your participation will count as three videos.  We will have 9 or 10 surveys (online quizzes). Participation counts as a video. Most students enjoy them.

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 with 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. If during a test, I judge your formula sheet to have too much information, I’ll ask you to tear it in half.

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

– A video analysis of motion is due during week 3. You will make a video of human power production and analyze the video. 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.

– In week 8, we do 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 in order to share the project’s grade. So, please find a group, have fun, and fully participate for 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.


My Commitment to You: I will do my best to provide you with a planned structure, resources, and activities to learn. I will evaluate you only on criteria that I find foundational (to communicate energy concepts and how they affect our lives) allowing you the freedom to learn in a manner that suits you best. I will do my best to understand your professed needs and help you the best way I know. My Expectations of You: I expect that you will make decisions consistent with your best interest and your values. I also expect that we will all work toward the well being of our community. I expect that you will respect my time and make the best use of our time together by coming to class prepared. My intention is to help you learn from the resources around you: textbooks, online media, and each other. I expect you to record your questions while you study. I expect to start class with questions related to the reading and videos. If you have a question, please ask it after you have addressed the related resource (video or reading) and consulted others in your group.

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.

Learning Objectives:

  • Develop the ability to see that physics is based on a few underlying easily-understood concepts or “lenses”.
  • Begin to explain a physical phenomenon by choosing the appropriate underlying concept(s) and supporting that choice.
  • Build abilities through picture drawing and the discussion of our “mental models” or how we see a phenomenon.
  • Accept that we can verify a correct mental model through experiments and develop the ability to design and execute such experiments.
  • Build empowering learning strategies that draw on available community and resources.
  • Recognize that our understanding of anything is incomplete and may benefit from contrary perspectives.
  • Develop any awareness of how our actions affect others nearby, far away, and in the future.