Course Descriptions & Syllabi

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Note: some or all of the courses in the subjects marked as "Transfer" can be used towards a transfer degree: Associate of Science and Arts or Associate of Engineering Science at DACC. Transferability for specific institutions and majors varies. Consult a counselor for this information.

Areas of Study | | PHYS106 syllabus

COURSE TITLE:Physics-Mechanics
IAI CODE(S): P2 900L PHY 911

An introduction for engineering, physics, mathematics, and chemistry students to kinematics, forces, energy, and circular motion. The class consists of lecture, demonstrations, and laboratory. Class meets for 4 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week.

MATH120 or consent of instructor.

NOTES: A lab is required for this course. Some sections will require a separate lab, while other sections will include the lab.


Students are expected to gain competence in writing, reading, and understanding scientific and mathematical material through participation in a weekly laboratory exercise. The students' grades are based on experimental techniques, results and written reports.

The emphasis of the course is learning to analyze problems and to be able to apply the proper equations and mathematical procedures. In addition, the student is expected to understand the derivations of the equations and logic of the procedures used and will be able to answer classroom discussion questions and exam questions concerning them.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  • Use proper units and definitions of measurements, and of scientific laws and principles
  • discuss and assess accuracy and precision in measurements as well as basic data analysis skills
  • Solve non-trivial application problems, consider experiment design issues, and analyze data and assumptions to determine relevant factors for scientific model building
  • Work in group laboratory projects, determining roles and duties as members of the group, and collecting, analyzing, and presenting data and conclusions
  • Use Microsoft Excel to do data collection and organization, and to do calculations. Students will use graphing calculators to do calculations
  • compare and contrast mechanical terminology using applicable formulae, units, and scientific vocabulary
  • Solve equations by identifying variables, interpreting the significance of the equations, and citing applications, as well as predicting (with justification) variations in results from changes in conditions, in the mechanical processes
  • Analyze concepts by detailing the assumptions and limitations of the conceptual models as well as justifying corrective terms and signage for formulae used in mechanical processes
  • Apply various mechanical concepts to multi-level, application problems that make use of diagramming, vector mathematics, derivatives, integrals, and the right-hand rule using correct signage, dimensional analysis, and justification for plausibility of the process (based on the standards given in a rubric).
  • Interpret graphical representations for functions and processes by extrapolating data or drawing conclusions about the mechanical process
  • use proper laboratory and communication skills through experiments, industry projects, and written reports based on standards given in a rubric

Weekly Schedule

Week Topics
1 SI units and prefixes, tools of analysis including dimensional analysis, unit analysis and the use of significant figures. Mathematical tools of trigonometry and calculus are reviewed.
2 Vector quantities of displacement, velocity and acceleration are defined verbally and mathematically. Kinematic equations derived from calculus and concept of free fall discussed.
3 Vector and scalar quantities are defined. Vector addition of parallel and perpendicular vectors used to find magnitude of resultant vector. Vectors are resolved into horizontal and vertical components using trigonometry. Angle of resultant vector determined by using trigonometry.
4 Motion in 2-Dimensions is analyzed using the previously derived kinematic equations. Projectile motion analyzed.
5 Inertia and mass defined. Newton’s laws of motion used to define and analyze forces. Kinematic equations combined with Newton’s laws of motion to solve problems. Free body diagrams explained and demonstrated.
6 Exam 1
Forces due to friction analyzed. Circular motion analyzed.
7 Combining kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, summation of forces and circular motion to solve problems in inertial and accelerated reference frames.
8 Work defined and calculated for constant forces and for varying forces. Dot product discussed. Kinetic energy defined mathematically. Work-Kinetic energy theorem discussed.
9 Gravitational and elastic potential energy defined mathematically. Relationship between potential energy and forces shown mathematically.
10 Conservation of energy discussed. Motion problems solved using work, and conservation of energy.
11 Define linear momentum and the conservation of momentum. Analyze collisions in one and two dimensions
Exam 2
12 Angular displacement, angular velocity, and angular acceleration are defined and the mathematical formulations analyzed. Linear displacement, tangential velocity and tangential acceleration related to angular motion. Moments of inertia calculated.
13 Rotational energy and torque calculated. Solve problems involving linear and rotational motion, sum of forces and sum or torques.
Exam 3-4
14 Simple harmonic motion defined, motion of a mass on a spring and pendulum motion analyzed.
15 Damped oscillations, forced oscillations and resonance introduced.
16 Exam 4
Review for final exam

  • Measurements
    • SI units and prefixes
    • Conversions
    • Order-of-Magnitude Estimations
    • Significant Figures
  • Vectors
    • Addition and Subtraction
    • Dot-Products and Cross-Products
    • Horizontal and Vertical Components
    • Unit vector notation
  • Motion
    • One-dimension and Two-dimension
    • Kinematic Equations
    • Projectile motion
    • Free-fall
    • Centripetal Motion
  • Forces
    • Inertial and mass
    • Newton’s Laws of Motion
    • Gravitation
    • Centripetal Forces
    • Motion in accelerated frames
  • Energy
    • Work done by a conservative force
    • Kinetic Energy and Work-Kinetic Energy Theorem
    • Potential Energy
    • Relationship between Potential Energy and Conservative Forces
    • Conservation of Energy
    • Power
  • Linear Momentum
    • Definition
    • Isolated and Non-Isolated Systems
    • Collisions in One- and Two- Dimensions
    • Center of Mass
    • System of many particles
  • Rotation of a Rigid Object
    • Angular Position, Velocity and Acceleration
    • Angular and Translational Quantities
    • Torque
    • Moments of Inertia
    • Rotational Kinetic Energy
  • Angular Momentum
    • Angular Momentum of a Rotating Object
  • Static Equilibrium
  • Elastic Properties of Solids
  • Simple Harmonic Motion
    • Particle in Simple Harmonic Motion
    • Energy of the Simple Harmonic Oscillator
    • Comparing Simple Harmonic Motion to Circular Motion
    • Damped oscillations
    • Forced oscillations
Lab Activities
Activity Title Description of Lab Student Outcome Delivery Time
Measuring and error analysis Students are introduced to a variety of instruments to measure length, mass, and volume. Concepts of precision, accuracy and uncertainty are investigated. After this lab students will be able to explain when and how to use common lab equipment and how to obtain the highest precision. Hands on 2 hrs
Free Fall Acceleration Photogates are used to find the time required for an object to fall different distances. A position vs time graph is constructed and analyzed to determine acceleration After completing this lab students will be able to make a graph using Excel. Students will also be able to use first and second derivatives to find velocity and acceleration Hands on 2 hrs
Force Table A force table is used to investigate horizontal and vertical components of force After completing this lab students will be able to express vectors in horizontal and vertical components Hands on 2 hrs
Projectile Motion A spring activated device fires steel bearings at various angles. Initial angle, change in height and range are used to determine initial velocity After completing this lab students will be able to use kinematic equations to solve projectile motion problems Hands on 2 hrs
Centripetal Force A centripetal force device with varying force and rotational speed is used to investigate centripetal motion After completing this lab students will be able to express and explain centripetal motion Hands on 2 hrs
Atwood’s Machine Atwood’s machine is used to examine the acceleration of two different masses connected by a light string. The acceleration due to gravity is determined. After completing this lab students will be able to assess the acceleration of unbalanced forces. Hands on 2 hrs
Hooke’s Law Light springs are used to investigate the potential energy of a spring. After completing this lab students will be able to construct and analyze graphs using Excel.

Students will also use statistical methods to determine margin of error
Hands on 2 hrs
Conservation of Energy A steel bearing is rolled down a track with varying initial heights. Velocity of the bearing is measured at the bottom of the track. Potential, kinetic energy are calculated. The difference is recorded After completing this lab students will be able to explain the relationship between potential and kinetic energy. Students will be asked to explain the difference between the potential and kinetic energies. Hands on 2 hrs
Conservation of Momentum Air tracks are used to analyze collisions between carts of different masses. Momentum is measured before and after the collisions. After completing this lab students will be able to use conservation of momentum to predict motion after a collision. Hands on 2 hrs
Torque A meter stick supports various weights suspended at various positions from a pivot point so that the stick is balanced. Torques due to the suspended weights as well as to the center of mass are calculated. After completing this lab students will be able to identify different torques in a system and explain how the torques add to zero. Hands on 2 hrs
Rotational Kinetics Revolutions, angular velocity and acceleration are measured as torques are applied to a rotating base with adjustable distribution of weights. After completing this lab students will be able to examine the relationships between revolution, angular velocity, angular acceleration and torque. Hands on 2 hrs
Rotational Energy Different shaped objects are rolled down a ramp. The potential energy and kinetic energy are measured. Rotational energy is calculated and compared to the difference of potential and kinetic energies. After completing this lab students will be able to predict what shapes require more rotational energy than others. Students will also be able to calculate rotational energy for various simple shapes. Hands on 2 hrs
Angular Momentum The angular velocity of a rotating table is measured before and after an adjustable mass is moved in relationship to the axis of rotation. After completing this lab students will be able to predict the angular velocity of an object when the center of mass is changed Hands on 2 hrs
Center of gravity Rigid objects of different size are measured and the center of mass and gravity calculated and verified experimentally. After completing this lab students will be able to calculate the center of gravity of different objects Hands on 2 hrs
Simple Harmonic Motion After completing this lab students will be able to explain the simple harmonic motion of a mass on a spring Hands on 2 hrs
Total lab contact hours: 30


Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 9th Edition. Richard Serway, 2010.
See bookstore website for current book(s) at


The main classroom activity is lecture interspersed with questions and discussion. Problems are given as well as four major exams. Examination exercises are divided with approximately 85% devoted to problem solving and 15% to terminology and conceptual essays. This course contains an independent study unit over fluid and gravitational mechanics. Four exams will be given as well as a comprehensive final.

Grading Criteria:
Final Exam

Grading Scale:
A= 90%-100%
B= 80%-89.9%
C= 70%-79.9%
D= 60%-69.9%
F= Below 60%

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Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Testing & Academic Services Center at 217-443-8708 (TTY 217-443-8701) or stop by Cannon Hall Room 103. Please speak with your instructor privately to discuss your specific accommodation needs in this course.

Spring 2020

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