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Introductory Physics I with Laboratory

Explore motion in the real world using modern tools and techniques (video capture and analysis, computer modeling) guided by fundamental physics principles.

About the Course

We will investigate motion in the world around us; we welcome both those who want to participate fully and those who wish to sample, cafeteria-style, the activities of this course.  Those who participate fully will experience a course that is very different in style but equivalent (at least) in core content to a traditional, on-campus, first-semester college-level introductory physics course that includes a laboratory. At the same time, those who cherry-pick selected course elements (e.g., learning the basics of video capture and analysis of motion in one’s own surroundings) will still advance their understanding of physics.   

We aim to understand and to predict motion in the real world using a small set of powerful fundamental principles. The laboratories are the backbone of this course, providing opportunities (1) to observe and to analyze motion in our own surroundings, (2) to apply fundamental principles to build explanations of the motion, and (3) to evaluate, in a constructively critical way, our own measurements and models, as well as the measurements and models of our course peers. Other course elements (lecture videos with “clicker” questions, homework) support and extend the physics explored in the laboratories.

Participants who satisfactorily complete the course will be eligible for six (6) Continuing Education Units from the American Association of Physics Teachers. 

Course Syllabus

(NBThis syllabus will be revised soon to reflect a 16-week term; please check back later.  )

Week 1:               Motion in 1D: Kinematics, Vectors (Part 1) & Newton’s 2nd Law

Lab 0:                  Install Video Analysis & Computer Modeling Software

Week 2:               Motion in 1D: Prediction of Motion; Constant/Non-Constant Forces

Lab 1:                  Constant Velocity Motion in Your Surroundings

Week 3:               Motion in > 1D: Vectors (Part 2) & Newton’s 2nd Law

Week 4:               Motion in > 1D: Prediction of Motion; Momentum

Lab 2:                  Free Fallin’ with Drag (1D Dynamics)

Week 5:               Curving Motion, Including Uniform/Non-Uniform Circular Motion

Week 6:               Energy Principle; Work

Lab 3:                  Galactic Black Holes (>1D Dynamics)

Week 7:               Multiparticle Systems: Potential Energy

Week 8:               Energy Applications

Lab 4:                  Rope Physics in Sports (Forces & Energy)

Week 9:               Energy & Momentum: Collisions

Week 10:             Angular Momentum Principle

Lab 5:                  Free Choice Project (Energy & Momentum)

Week 11:             Final Exam; Lab 5 Submit & Evaluate

Recommended Background

No background with computer programming is required.

Participants with nothing more than some experience in basic algebra (and a sense of adventure!) will be able to participate in at least some of the labs and other course work.

Participants with good algebra and trigonometry skills but no background in calculus will be able to participate almost all labs and most other course work.

Those who have some familiarity with calculus will be able to participate in all aspects of the course.

Suggested Readings

Suggested reading assignments will be drawn from the textbook, Matter and Interactions: Volume 1 Modern Mechanics, 3rd edition, (R. Chabay & B. Sherwood, Wiley). We plan to provide course participants with limited time, free access to the suggested readings. Course participants will also have the opportunity to purchase permanent access to the textbook.

Course Format

Each lab (one approximately every two weeks) will typically (but not always) begin with observation and video capture of a particular type of motion in one's own surroundings. You will need to use a smartphone camera or a webcam to capture video. We will then use video analysis software to extract motion data. Fundamental principles will be applied to construct models (including computer models) of the observed motion. Every student will record a video lab report comparing these observations and submit it for peer review.  Course participants will evaluate the video lab reports submitted by peers.

The lab work will be supported and extended by short lecture videos in which short conceptual "clicker" questions are integrated. There will be homework assignments and a final exam.


  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment from Georgia Tech C21U.

  • What resources will I need for this class?  You will need:
    • an Internet connection
    • access to a computer where you can install and can use the free, open-source software we will need for video analysis and for computer modeling. It would be good if the computer you use had a spreadsheet program (at times, we will make scatter plots in spreadsheets); however, if necessary, you can use the free spreadsheet on Google docs.
    • a digital camera of some type (cellphone camera, web camera, point-and-shoot digital camera) and a way to transfer images from that camera to the computer you will use for the course.