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PHYS-1100         PHYSICS I             Fall 2007


Course Coordinator:    Prof. Christian Wetzel

              Office:             J-R Science Center 1W20

              Telephone:      8077



Professors:           Christian Wetzel , Sang-Kee Eah, Masashi Yamaguchi,  
                             Gary Adams, Morris Washington, Michael Malak


Required Text:          Fundamentals of Physics, Eighth Edition by Halliday, Resnick and Walker .  (You will continue with this book in Physics II.)


Required License:     WileyPLUSTM online system registration.  (Covers Physics I and II.)


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Executive Summary:

Course Format: Reading , Homework, Lecture, Problems of the Day, Activity

Course Grade: 65% exams, 10% homework, 25% in-class (activity + exercises)

Cheating = F

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Course Website:   

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Sections:  This course will be given in several parallel Sections by different instructors.


Course Format:  The course requires your preparation for class by working through the textbook.  This can be done at your own pace, but assigned material is a prerequisite for the respective classes.  Then in class, your professor will give you a short summary lecture on that assigned material and answer any related questions.  Following the lecture, you will solve short sample problems under the instructor's guidance.  You will then work in teams on an in-class activity that applies and deepens the material.  Homework will be assigned based on the covered material and activity and is due the following class.


Homework:  Homework problems based on material of the preceding class will be assigned from the textbook and/or activity.  Homework assignments are numbered by the class when they are due. You are expected to be able to solve all the assigned problems by the time you come to class.

Most of the homework problems will be performed online using the WileyPLUSTM system. A registration and pass code can be purchased together with the book or separately at the RPI bookstore.  When you first log on, you will activate your account and register for the appropriate section. 

Make sure to register only for the correct Section!

Section 01:             

Section 02:             

Section 03:             

Section 05:             

Section 06:             

Section 07:             

Section 08:             

Section 09:             

Section 10:             


Problems in the online system are the same as the corresponding problems in the book, except that they may use different numbers.  You have five attempts to get the correct answer.  For most problems, after three incorrect answers you will be given a hint and/or the appropriate section of the book will pop up for your reference.  Points are assigned to the problems based on their difficulty.  Most assignments are worth 100 points.  Online homework must be completed by 7 AM of the day it is due.

Homework Quizzes:  Without announcement, there will be homework quizzes given in some classes.  The quizzes are based on the homework that is due for the same class.  The problem will use ideas similar to the homework problems, but it will not be identical.  During the quiz, you may use your textbook and the standard Formula Sheet.  The quiz will start promptly with class and all quizzes must be handed in by fifteen minutes after the start of class in order to receive credit.  Quizzes will be graded in a10-point scheme.

Homework Grade:  Your homework grade is based on a total of 2000 points.  Your WileyPLUSTM online homework score directly counts towards your homework grade. On class days where a quiz was given, the quiz points, times 10, replace the points of homework due the same class.

Review Assignments:  Optional review assignments can be handed in for credit prior to each of the three exams.  Assignments will be given on the Physics 1 website and handed in on paper.  Each review assignment has ten problems worth ten points each.  You must show all work, not just the answer.  Any points you earn on these assignments are added to your homework point total.  Since up to 300 extra points can be earned this way, most students will be able to achieve a 100% homework average (the maximum) by doing the review assignments.



1.            Problem(s) of the Day:  After the lecture, we will spend about 10-15 minutes solving the Problem or Problems of the Day.  These will be brief multiple-choice and numerical exercises, similar to homework and exam problems, based on the lecture that was just completed.  One or more teams of students will volunteer to work the problem(s) in class with the instructor’s guidance.  In some cases the instructor may work out the Problems of the Day in front of class instead of volunteer student teams.

2.            In-class activities:  Our Physics I course is based on learning through activities, so this is an important part of the course.  You will be assigned to work in teams on experiments and/or problems in class.  Each activity has a corresponding MS Word document that will be posted on the Physics I website before the first section works on it, and left there the remainder of the semester for you to review.  There will be a limited number of hard copies to use in class, but these should not be written on as the same copies are used for all sections.  Each member of the team will answer the activity questions on her/his own sheet(s) of paper, but will work together on the activity.  The activity papers will be collected and graded.  Your ability and willingness to work as part of a team will be evaluated and considered in assigning the grade. In-class activities which are missed cannot be made-up without a written medical or other valid excuse as per RPI policy.  Under special circumstances and with prior approval from both of the instructors, a student may attend another section and complete the activity there with one of the teams.  Generally, it is not possible to make up an activity unless you can make it up in another section.  The reason for this is that most activities require particular equipment to be set up prior to the class and are designed to be done in a group.  You will be allowed to drop one activity grade – this will be your lowest grade or a 0 if you skipped an activity without a valid excuse.  Even if you are excused, you are still responsible for the material in the activity.  Students must collect all graded activity papers from the teaching assistant.  All students should hold onto all graded papers.  No questions about activity grades will be addressed without a complete written record.

3.            In-class exercises:  Exercise problems (they are like exam questions) will be given as part of many activities, typically at the end.  You can discuss these with your team members and anyone else, but when you hand in the activity for that day the work on the exercises must be your own, not simply copied.  You will be graded on your reasoning and explanations, not just getting the correct numerical result.


Academic Integrity Policy:  Academic integrity is one of the cornerstones of RPI.  Students taking courses at RPI have a right to expect that their work will be evaluated fairly with respect to other students.  They have a right to expect that other students will not attempt to enhance their own grades or the grades of their friends by cheating.  Professors have a right to expect that their students are honest and submit work reflecting their own efforts.  In an atmosphere of academic integrity, students and professors are on the same team trying to achieve the same learning objectives.

         If you attempt to cheat, you are placing yourself in a position where you are at odds with your professors and the vast majority of your fellow students.  Some RPI students have discovered to their lasting regret that there was no graceful exit strategy when they were caught cheating.  Academic dishonesty is a serious offense and we will treat it accordingly.


The first occurrence of academic dishonesty will result in an F for the course.

The development of teamwork skills is a course objective in Physics I and II.  Hence, all students are expected to participate actively in a collaborative group when working on the in-class activity.  However, each student must turn in her/his own activity write-up containing only work to which she/he contributed.  In other words, we expect you to participate on the team and not just copy other people’s work.  Activity write-ups from groups of students will not be accepted.  No student will submit an activity in the name of any other student who was not present.  This is considered cheating by both students involved and will be handled according to the policy for academic dishonesty stated above.

         When you take an examination, any type of collaboration is considered cheating.  Sharing information about the exam with another student who will take it in the future or is currently taking it is considered cheating for both students.  Taking an exam in the name of another person is considered cheating for both.  Copying answers from another student’s exam without his or her knowledge is considered cheating only for the one who copies.  Using prepared crib notes or a book of any type during an exam is cheating.  (You will be given the same formula sheets that you will find below when you take the exam.)  Altering or adding to answers when you submit an exam for a re-grade (see below) is cheating.

         Discussing homework problems and getting help with them before class is permitted and encouraged.  Looking at someone else’s solution to learn how to do it before class is permitted.   Copying from another student during a quiz, discussing a quiz problem with a student who has not yet taken it, or other forms of academic dishonesty during a quiz are considered the same as cheating on an exam.  The only difference is that the use of your textbook during a homework quiz is permitted.

         If you get creative and think of a new way to cheat that is not specifically mentioned above, it is still cheating.  If you are that creative, please put your talents to better use.


Exams:  There will be three major (1 hour) unit exams in this course. They will be held on Tuesday Sep. 25, Tuesday Oct. 30, and Tuesday Dec. 4.  Exams will be held from 6:00 PM to 7:25 PM.  Rooms will be announced.

         In each exam, including the final, you will be given a formula sheet.  You are allowed to use only those formulas (or equations that you derive in writing on the exam paper from those formulas) in the solution of exam problems.  It is permitted to use standard math facts or formulas from algebra, trigonometry, etc.  Constants will be provided on the formula sheet or in the problems as needed.

         We give you 85 minutes for the exams but we aim for one hour’s worth of questions.  Normally, there are multiple-choice and true/false questions, graphing problems, and homework-type problems.  To make sure that you get all the partial credit you are due – not to mention making it easier to grade – please present your work in a neat and logical format.  You must answer each question on the same page as the question, front only.

         There will be no make-up exams, but there will be conflict exams for recognized RPI events such as athletic games.  The difference is that a make-up exam is a different exam given at a later date, while a conflict exam is the same exam but given at a different time.  If you know ahead of time that you are going to miss an exam, for any reason, tell your instructor.  Often these problems can be handled.  This semester, Physics I was scheduled with a block of time for everyone on Tuesdays from 6-7:25 PM reserved for exams, reviews, and other purposes as needed.  In theory, the need for conflict exams should be minimal.  If you have a learning disability recognized by RPI, you should come to a conflict exam so that we can give you extra time, even if you don’t have a schedule conflict.

         You may use only the following items to work on the exam: pens (black or blue only), pencils, erasers, rulers, straightedges, and calculators of any type.  (Note that any communication between calculators is cheating as explained above.  You may not store crib notes on calculators.)  Personal items like paper tissues, water bottles, and candy are OK, but please don’t hide crib notes in them.  Laptop computers, PDAs, cell phones, pagers, knives, scissors, scrap paper, note cards, white-out, glue, tape, and staplers are prohibited from use during an exam.

         You may not un-staple the exam.  You must put your name on every page.  If the exam comes apart or you seem to be missing any pages, or you notice anything else that you need to bring to our attention, please raise your hand and summon a proctor immediately.  Students who promptly and honestly notify us of a problem will not be subject to any academic integrity penalty for the situation reported.


Exam Re-Grade Policy:  If you think there was an error in grading your exam or adding up the points, it is up to you to bring the error(s) to your instructor’s attention within one week of getting the exam back unless you have an RPI excuse.  Use the cover sheet, front and/or back, and write which problem(s) you think should be re-graded and why.  The instructor will take your exam, check it out, and give it back in about a week.  Please ask only your own instructor for a re-grade.  Exams that have been written on after being handed back, except on the cover page, cannot be submitted for a re-grade.  Under no circumstances will a re-grade be considered for an exam after the next exam or final has been given.


Final Exam:  The final examination is optional.  However, if you miss one or more unit exams, excused or not, the final is mandatory.  If you are satisfied with your grade after all activities, homework, and unit exams are complete, then you are finished with Physics I.  (See the next section for how we determine grades.)  However, if you are not satisfied with your grade, particularly if you have one or more low unit exam scores, you can attempt to raise your grade by taking the final.  If you do take the final and hand it in for grading, it counts as two unit tests, giving you an effective total of five exam scores.  We drop the lowest score of the five scores, computing your exam average from the best four.  Taking the final does not guarantee you a higher grade; it could lower your grade if you do poorly.


The final exam lasts three hours, but we aim for two hour’s worth of questions.  The format is similar to the unit exams, but twice as long.


The final exam date will be scheduled by the registrar.  We do not know the date of the final until quite late in the semester.  We have often been scheduled on the last day of exams.  Hence, until we know the date of the final, do not plan to leave campus before the end of the final exam period.  No special arrangements will be made for students who cannot take the final at the scheduled time.  Physics I is an introductory course and so if you have a conflict between our final and another final, you will likely have to reschedule the other final.


Grades:  Your course grade will be determined as follows:


Exam Grades:                  65% (3 unit exam average or the best 4 out of the optional final counted twice plus 3 unit exams)

Homework:                      10%  (can miss one assignment or quiz without an excuse)

In-Class Work:                25%  (can miss one class without an excuse)
– Broken down 7/10 for main activity, 3/10 for exercise grades


Remember, there are no make-up activities, quizzes or exams without a written excuse or prior arrangement.


Laptop Computers:  Your laptop computer will be used only during Problems of the Day and Activities.  Generally, each team will need only one laptop computer running the LoggerPro software available on the Studio Physics CD.  Some activities will not require a laptop computer.  These are activities with only a Word document and no other files listed.


All student laptops will be closed during the lecture part of class.  Your instructor may give you permission to use your laptop to follow the lecture notes if you cannot see them well from your seat.  Please don’t allow your laptop to be a distraction during lectures.

         Because you will be working closely together with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, please do not have wallpaper, screen savers, and other pictures visible on your laptop that you would be embarrassed to show to your grandmother.  This is the same rule of common sense and courtesy you will find when you are working in any major corporation, university, or research laboratory.


Expectations: If you are registered to take Physics I at RPI, then by definition you have the academic and intellectual prerequisites to do well in the course.  However, whether you actually do well (or not) will depend on your diligence.  Over the years we have been teaching, we have discovered several common problem areas that can hinder a student’s success in Physics I.  (This applies to your other RPI classes as well.)  Here are some words to the wise:

1.Come to class and participate.  Physics I is an activity-based course, meaning that we assume you will be doing most of your learning while participating in the activities.  If you are not in class – both physically and mentally – you are missing most of the learning.  Some students get the notion that they can miss half or more of the classes and still pull out a decent (or passing) grade by doing really well on the exams.  That does not work!

2.Do the homework.  The homework problems were specifically designed to reinforce the material that we covered in class.  The regular homework problems are straightforward examples of the principles and methods we just learned in reading and classroom work.  The challenge problems in a homework set will make you think.  You will find that many exam questions are similar to homework problems.

3.Get help early if you need it.  The first two items above can and should be done in collaboration with your fellow students.  They are your first source of quick help if you get stuck on something.  But if you are coming to class every day and making a good faith attempt to do the homework, and you still aren’t “getting it,” contact your TA, professor, or the course director as soon as possible for extra help.  Physics I builds as it goes, with later concepts depending on earlier ones, so if you are weak on something near the beginning of the semester, it will affect your success the whole way through.

4.This isn’t high school.  Most students at RPI had a decent high school physics course.  At first glance, the list of things we study is similar to what you may have covered in high school physics.  However, we cover these topics faster, more rigorously, and in greater depth.  Our problems and exam questions tend to be more complex and require better understanding of the underlying principles than most high school physics problems.  Simple methods that may have worked for you in high school, using memorization instead of understanding, will not suffice for Physics I.  One example is the old trick of finding an equation that contains all of the parameters in the problem and using basic algebra to solve for the one you don’t know.  In Physics I at RPI, this trick works only for the simplest homework problems and will not get you very far on exams.  Keep an open mind to learn the principles and methods as we teach them in Physics I and you should do fine.


Course Information: Course information, exam review material and lecture notes are available on the course website (see first page). You are strongly encouraged to visit this website on a regular basis.  You will find important information like homework hints, office hours, and exam rooms.

Welcome to Physics I at RPI for Fall 2007!

We post important announcements here, at the bottom of each page.  All of the information you need to know about the course is posted on this site.  Add it to your list of “favorite sites” (I know, I know...) and check often.

If you are using Microsoft Windows Vista, you need to upgrade to LoggerPro 3.5. Follow this link for instructions.

If you are having trouble connecting your laptop to the LabPro device when you attach the USB cable, check this possible workaround.

You can download copies of the first exam and its solutions, the second exam and its solutions, and the third exam and its solutions.

There will be Supplemental Instruction for Physics 1 by Asantha Kempitiya Mondays and Thursdays 8-10pm in DCC 235.  (This is a change from the original location.)

The optional review for exam 3 will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, in DCC 308.