NSF Proposal Summary DUE-1141330
6/12–5/15; $124,236

David Roundy

An upper-division computational physics course is being developed which runs parallel to and in synchrony with the existing junior-year physics courses that are being developed within the “Paradigms in Physics” project at Oregon State University (OSU).

Computation in physics courses is commonly treated in one of two ways. Either students run existing simulations in order to aid their understanding of physics, or physics examples are introduced ad hoc as applications of the numerical methods that students are learning to use in performing their own computations. While both of these approaches have value, this project serves to create a course that teaches students physics by having them create their own computations within the context of upper division courses. To this end, a project-driven laboratory experience in computational physics (utilizing course-integrated Python oriented modules) is introduced at an advanced level. In this laboratory course, students are learning to use important computational tools in the same manner as a professional physicist. In view of the importance of computation to the professional scientist, the course seeks to teach at a level that is accessible to all physics majors, with particular care taken for those who are least comfortable using computers.

This project is producing a set of six computational laboratory modules (with corresponding curricular materials) that are being evaluated and made available for use at other colleges and universities. Although the content is tailored and organized to fit the junior-year curriculum at OSU, the materials are designed to be sufficiently modular so as to be readily incorporated into the upper-division physics curriculum at other colleges and universities. Workshops are being developed for AAPT national meetings that will directly increase the visibility of these computational modules for other users.

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