Syllabus PHYS 310 Spring 2017

Please see course website for logistics and timeline.

Text: We will use prepared videos and online reading. We will also use a textbook: Physics of Societal Issues: Calculations on National Security, Environment, and Energy, 2nd edition, David Hafemeister, Springer 2014, available at the book store. And guess what? it’s copyrighted for public use!, So you can buy it at the bookstore, or download it for free here. The author, DH, is a Cal Poly emeritus physics professor. He taught his last class with me at age 81, PHYS-310, in 2015.

Grading: You will be graded based on watching the videos, four midterm exams, and a group project to be presented during final exam time.

Exams: Each midterm is worth 15%, but the last midterm, on the last day of class can replace the lowest of the other three exams. Thus, there is no major penalty for missing any of the three earlier midterms, as this grade of zero will be replaced by the final exam grade.

Projects: You will research an energy problem and solution with a group of 3-4 students. It will count 40% of your grade. These are open ended “service learning” projects whereby you engage with an outside community or “client”. Thus quantitative project goals are not possible. You will independently research and learn about your project area. You will professionally communicate with your community and/or other student groups in this class or the appropriate technology class, or research students. You will build a professional website and make a professional presentation at the end of the class. You will gain some real world information and teach us some interesting things we don’t know already. You will make recommendations as to how the project should continue or not continue. You may “succeed” or “fail”. A valiant failure with reflection will receive high acclaim and a high grade. You will have some feedback along the way from your websites and our discussions as to how you’re doing. The bar for the projects is very middle. Rather than strive for excellence, we strive for “goodness”. I will inquire into your group to verify that your participation was supportive and helpful… that you did your part in the group.
Videos: Most of the initial information for the class is introduced via videos that you watch via PlayPosit. If you don’t watch the videos, your grade will be reduced by the amount described below in “videos”.

Class Work: After your introduction to the material via videos and reading, you will work as a group to discuss policy and solve problems in the homework in class. I may collect some of your group work and grade it, but it will not count toward your final grade.

Big Exams: I intend to have an exam every Friday: either a midterm, or a “Big Exam”. Big Exams will be collected, graded, and returned, but the grade does not count toward your final grade. The purpose of big exams is to simulate an exam so you have a clear idea of how the exams will work. We will also try to understand and reign in test anxiety that presents challenges to some students.

Problem Sets: Usually due Monday in class. These are graded A,B,C,D,F based on the same criteria as the exams. The grade is recorded, but will not be used toward your final grade. You may hand in your problem set as a group. You can either staple all your papers together (in which case only one will be looked at) or hand in a single problem set as a group with everyone’s name on it. I will not collect late homework as I’ve found I often lose them. However, you can turn in late homework in the envelope outside my door.

It would be a very good idea to be familiar with class discussions, problem sets, big exams, and activities before each exam.

Videos, Preparing for Class: It is imperative that we come to class prepared. Please watch the videos by following the links on the class timeline (not to the PlayPosit website as I may not have the videos displayed 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 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”.

In order to get credit for the videos, you will have to get a subscription to PlayPosit, which is free. You will be prompted for a password when you click on a video link for the first time. Please make up a password that you will remember, because retrieving them is hard. I don’t think you’ll need it, but my instructor code is v92edc.

Group Project: Groups of 3-4 students will do a research project on something related to energy, society, and the environment that interests you. Ideally, you will work with a nonprofit or other group looking for some help. You will identify a community and research a solution including the technical, social, and environmental implications. It may involve reading and research, or building and calculating, or doing an experiment. You will document it on the project website (link on main class webpage) and present the project during the final exam period time.

Formula Sheets:
I will not provide you with a formula sheet for the exams. You are welcome to build your own formula sheet provided it has no more than 200 characters and no drawings. I recommend that you start a formula sheet now and add formulas as they appear in the videos, and dropping old ones you don’t need anymore.

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 from You: I expect that you will make decisions consistent with your best interest and your values. I also expect that we will all will 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 criteria established above. You are not in competition. My experience is and studies show that everyone learns better if we help each other.