Introductory Physics I with Laboratory

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Course Date: 22 September 2014 to 08 December 2014 (11 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

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

Estimated Workload: 10-14 hours/week

Course Instructors

Michael Schatz

Michael F. Schatz is a professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in the School of Physics. Schatz grew up on a cattle ranch near the town of Eagle Butte, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. He majored in physics at the University of Notre Dame, where he received his BS (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in 1983. After working for a few years at NASA as a rocket scientist conducting research on ion propulsion, Schatz attended graduate school at the University of Texas, Austin, where he received his PhD in physics in 1991. Schatz was a lecturer and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas, Austin until 1996, when he joined the faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology as an assistant professor of physics.  
Schatz conducts research in both experimental nonlinear dynamics (pattern formation, chaos and turbulence in fluid flows) and physics education. He is a recipient of the Cottrell Scholars Award for his commitment to excellence in both research and teaching.

Course Description

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. 


  • 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. 


(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


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.

Suggested Reading

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 Workload

10-14 hours/week

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