Intro Physics Labs

Launch for Incorporating Computational Modeling in Introductory Physics Labs

While computers and their uses in the sciences have rapidly developed over the past fifty years, traditional introductory physics classes have remained unchanged. Exposing students to computation early in their education will provide them with a powerful tool that will help them in upper-level classes and with their careers, including preparing them for internships that start as early as their first semesters on campus.

The UM Physics Department is preparing to enter into a three-year reform period where two of their introductory laboratory courses, Elementary Lab I & II (PHYS 141 & 241), are integrating VPython modeling into the current hands-on labs. Four goals of this reform are to (1) explicitly make connections for the students between the computational models and experimental physical realities, (2) introduce students to solving realistic problems instead of relying on inadequate analytic approximations, (3) introduce basic algorithms for numerical modeling and assessment strategies to determine the physical accuracy of models, (4) demonstrate the utility of comparing analytic to numerical methods and give students a sense of respective strengths and weaknesses of these methods.

Project Team

Brad Orr, College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Wolfgang Lorenzon, College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Yuri Popov, College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Nicole Michelotti, College of Literature, Science and the Arts