Syllabus 141 Spring 2016

Instructor: Pete Schwartz, Cal Poly Physics:, Pete’s Webpage:, x6-1220, 180-608

Text: We will be using a free online textbook. You can download the full physics textbook directly as a moderate resolution .pdf here. I have also provided a high resolution version that covers only the mechanics portion or everything we will cover in 141. You can also download a high resolution full textbook, or an interactive copy for iPad or other computers at Many students benefit from having a hard copy that you can carry around. I strongly encourage you to print out the chapters as we go along and bind them together so you can write notes on them and keep them for future reference. You are welcome to use any other textbook that you may find, but the reading sections are pointed out for Open Stax.


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 the problems done.

Your final grade will be determined by a rubric: 50% for the final exam and 25% for each of two midterms. Inside of this, you are also required to do two group projects, watch videos for each class, and actively participate in class. We all need you to be prepared for and engaged in class to make this a great learning experience for all of us.

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: 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. Provide a relevant, labeled drawing illustrating the physics being discussed. Use units correctly the majority of the time.
B: Besides the statement and drawing required for a C, consistently set up a method to solve the problem. Verify whether answer makes sense most of the time.
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, grades for a question will not be turned into points and averaged as they might be for other classes.

Videos, Preparing for Class: It is imperative that we come to class prepared. Please watch the videos by following the links on the week’s wikispaces webpage (not to the PlayPosit website as I may not have the videos displaced on PlayPosit) before class and do any reading and exercises before class starts. 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. If you miss a video, you should still watch it to learn the material, but you will not receive credit for watching it late. Your final grade will be lowered half a letter grade for every 20% of the videos you miss below 90%, so if you watch 90.5% of the videos on time, you will get full credit; 80%: loss of a quarter letter grade; 49%: your grade will be lowered two halves of a letter grade. If this is confusing, it may be easier to check the class website every day and always come prepared to class.

Class Work: Like the videos, it is your participation, not correctness that is graded. You will hand in classwork as a group, stapled together. As with the videos you will receive full credit for participation of 90% or above and lose half letter grade for every 20% below 90% participation.

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 would be 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. The graders will provide only this letter grade and some advice that may help you in the future. I encourage you to hand in your problem set as a group, stapled together. I will not collect late homework as I’ve found I usually botch keeping track of them. However, you can turn in late PS 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 now and add formulas as they appear in the videos. 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 due on day 1 of week 3 with problem set #2 in initial form, and in final form on day 1 of 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. project description link is on the main page.

If you do each of the two projects adequately, you will receive full credit. If I find the project lacking, I’ll ask you to improve it for full credit. Your grade will be docked a half letter grade for each project not completed adequately. If I learn something or am inspired by your video, I may raise your grade as much as half a letter grade.

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.