College Physics I, PHY111
Fall 2016

Instructor:  Dr. David R. Burgess
Office:  Office hours are posted on my door.
Phone:  603-897-8264 (office)
Internet: (E-mail) (To Class Homepage)
Textbook: To cut down on the cost of a textbook the bare-bones material for this course is on our website, but each student is encouraged to purchase an algebra-based College Physics textbook. The material for this introductory course hasn't changed in the last 20 years, so any edition of a standard text will work. There are some new online texts that look promising as well. I recently looked at Perfection Learning's Kinetic Physics digital textbook. It looked good, but I wasn't sure about the amount of time to work through all of the material. Schaum's Outline of College Physics is another possibility. Here are some of the texts I have used in the past.
  • Physics Algebra/Trig 3rd Edition, by Eugene Hecht
  • Principles of Physics by Frank J. Blatt
  • College Physics by Serway and Faughn
  • College Physics by Buche

Course Context

Physics is the fundamental science. At some point all other physical and biological sciences merge into physics. In addition, physics is used to describe the motion and interaction of everyday objects. There is no other discipline that can better help to gain a fundamental understanding of the world we live in.

Physics is also an excellent opportunity to work on the college-wide competencies listed on the page titled Academic Assessment at Rivier. The nature of physics requires you to apply an understanding of course content to solve a variety of problems. In the process you will need to think critically and synthesize concepts. It is also an opportunity to make judgments about the appropriateness of solutions, not only in a physical sense, but often in more global ways. The ability to communicate will be important when explaining concepts and working in groups.

Since it would be impossible to cover all of the topics associated with physics, this course will concentrate on a few of the most basic concepts. They will be chosen carefully to provide an introduction to the basic concepts in physics and to provide an opportunity to sharpen critical thinking and problem solving skills. Indeed, the main objective of this course in not to learn all of physics, but to learn how to investigate and approach problems in a sound, logical manner. This will provide you with some basic physics and other skills that will enable you to make sound scientific judgments.

Course Goals

Specifically, this course will provide the opportunity:

  1. To obtain a sound background in physics that will allow further study in the sciences and provide a basis for sound scientific judgments.
  2. To investigate and learn to use the problem solving techniques and tools used in physics.
  3. To further develop communication skills using scientific terminology.
  4. To gain a sense of satisfaction from being able to solve difficult problems.

One of the main tools of a scientist is logical reasoning. This course will emphasize logical reasoning as a means of investigating and understanding physical systems.

The heart of physics, especially this first semester, is problem solving. Many problems from your book and other problems are available for practice. It will require diligent effort to understand the concepts that will enable you to do the problems.

Remember that it is the logical investigation of the problem, not the specific answer that is important in this context. Test your understanding of the concepts by doing problems.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to solve problems competently by identifying the essential parts of a problem and formulating a strategy for solving the problems concerning kinematics.
  2. Students will be able to solve problems competently by identifying the essential parts of a problem and formulating a strategy for solving the problems concerning statics, dynamics, and centripetal Force.
  3. Students will be able to solve problems competently by identifying the essential parts of a problem and formulating a strategy for solving the problems concerning work, energy, momentum, and conservation laws.
  4. Students will be able to solve problems competently by identifying the essential parts of a problem and formulating a strategy for solving the problems concerning rotational motion, equilibrium, and dynamics.
  5. Students will be able to solve problems competently by identifying the essential parts of a problem and formulating a strategy for solving the problems concerning harmonic motion/pendulums.

Other Notes

Quizzes will be given at the beginning of laboratory periods over the homework problems. One quiz will be dropped when determining the quiz average and the quiz average will count toward the lecture grade. Four exams will be given. Exams will not include true-false or multiple choice questions but will include problems similar to homework problems and exercises done in class and in the laboratory. There will also be a comprehensive final exam.

Final grades will be determined using the following weighting scale:

Exam Average 65%
Quiz Average 15%
Comprehensive Final Exam 20%

Raw scores will be converted to letter grades as established by the college (see the page titled Academic Assessment at Rivier). For example, if a student had a quiz average of 86%, an exam average of 82%, and earned a 77% on the final exam, she would have an overall score of

(.15)(86) + (.65)(82) + (.2)(77) = 81.6

and receive a B- for the course.

The class homepage also has a link to Academic Policies at Rivier and for this class. On our class policy page ( specific statements have been extracted, from the policies common to all undergraduate courses at Rivier College (, on Attendance, Habitual Non-Attendance, Academic Assessment, Academic Honesty, Classroom Behavior, Electronic Devices and Students With Disabilities. You are expected to be familiar with these policies and adhere to them.

Course Schedule

7 Sept - 26 Sept Introduction and Kinematics
26 Sept Exam 1
28 Sept - 24 Oct Statics, Dynamics, and Centripetal Force
24 Oct Exam 2
26 Oct - 21 Nov Work, Energy, Momentum, and Conservation Laws
21 Nov Exam 3
23 Nov - 5 Dec Rotational Motion, Equilibrium, and Dynamics
5 Dec Exam 4
7 Dec - 12 Dec Harmonic Motion/Pendulums
14 Dec Comprehensive Final Exam (8 am)

Homework, Fall 2014

Because we are not all using the same edition of the same book, the homework for this class is on the class website. I have accumulated these problem sets over the years and you will see that the problems are very similar to those found in your individual textbooks.

FALL 2016

Instructor: Dr. David R. Burgess
Office: ST239
Phone: 603-897-8264 (office)

The physics laboratory will provide an opportunity to investigate some of the concepts presented in the lecture course. This will be accomplished by investigating real and theoretical physical situations. Many exercises will be done in small groups and will require development of the experimental procedure. With these objectives in mind, the student learning outcome from this course is that the students will be able to create and carry out basic physics experiments. This will be assessed by written laboratory reports.

The “final” for this laboratory class will be a project at the end of the semester done in groups of two or three students. Each group will engage in an investigation looking at harmonic motion, specifically pendulums. Each group will spend time to generate questions that can be further investigated. A question will then be chosen and an experiment developed by each group. Data will be collected and displayed. The result will be a chart describing the investigation and the tentative results with uncertainty. If time permits a second investigation will take place to confirm a result obtained by one of the groups or it will be chosen by the instructor. The last three days of class and the last laboratory period will be set aside for these projects.

A tentative list of hands-on experiments to be done by the class during the semester is given below. General outlines of the experiments will be provided, but the specific details will be developed by the students. For each experiment you will need to identify the variables involved and use the best methods available to minimize the uncertainty in each variable's measurement. Individual reports are due one week after completion of the experiment.

Late assignments: There will not be any penalty for up to three late lab assignments. If there are four or more late assignments at the end of the semester, all of the late assignments, including the first three, will be penalized when calculating the final grade. Only the late assignments will be penalized and this will be done when final grades are calculated, after the assignments have been graded (all assignments will be graded as if they came in on time). The penalty will be one point off for each late lab, which is a penalty of 10% for that lab (each lab is worth 10 points).

Tentative experiments:

  1. Vector exercises.
  2. Equations of motion experiments.
  3. Statics experiments.
  4. Friction and the inclined plane.
  1. Conservation of energy.
  2. Conservation of momentum.
  3. Torque experiments.
  4. Rotational dynamics experiments.

Grading in the Physics Lab:

Each person will individually hand in a report on each laboratory exercise. Most of the exercises will be laboratory experiments done in class, but some may involve computer simulations, internet activities, or other activities as assigned. Each activity will be given equal weight.

Each student is individually responsible to get, understand and complete the assignments on time, even when working in groups or when absent. You are encouraged to help each other understand the material, but don't hand in identical lab reports. Identical homework is a form of plagiarism and cheating and will be handled according to the academic honesty policy.

Most laboratory reports should be organized as follows:

  1. Date, Name, Title
  2. Objective or Purpose of the Experiment
  3. Theory (What principles are needed in order to understand this lab?)
    1. Underlying Concepts
    2. Mathematical Models
  4. Materials Needed
  5. Procedure
  6. Tabulated Data and Result
  7. Error Analysis. (How confident are you in the result?)
    1. What is the ± value?
    2. Where does the uncertainty come from?
  8. Implications (Where could this be used?)