Hiram College

FRCL 147: Real World Physics: From Amusement Parks to Race Cars

Professor: Laura Van Wormer

Office Hours: MWF 2:45-4:00
TR 1:00-4:00 , but I am here lots of other times. You’ll find me in Gerstacker 108, x5249. Feel free to stop by, call or email: vanwormerla@hiram.edu.

Course Description:

In this course, we will be doing some simple experiments in order to learn about motion, acceleration and energy.  Also we will be building some simple tools to use in measuring acceleration, such as on an amusement park ride or in your own car.  We will be studying such things as race cars, friction and amusement park rides in order to understand the basic ideas of how they work.  We will be exploring how simple machines such as levers and pulleys work and building structures and testing their strength.  We will be taking a class trip to an amusement park so we can put some of these ideas to the test.  There are NO math requirements for this course.  This course doesn’t require previous physics skills, but will introduce you to physics concepts using real world examples.  You do not need to have taken a physics course – just be curious about the world around you and be willing to learn.  As in all colloquia, there will be three papers and two oral presentations as well as material to read and in-class discussions.


Reading and response assignments

Week 1: Physics, the Human Adventure Ch. 6.1-6.5

Warm Up questions — due via email by 5 pm on Wed Aug 30

(Remember to treat this as a writing assignment, paying attention to grammatical issues and setting forth your thoughts logically and clearly.)

1. What does it mean for a rule to be deterministic? How does that help us in designing experiments and drawing conclusions from them?
2. Study Fig. 6.2 and Fig. 6.4. What are they telling you?  Talk about what quantities are on each axis and what the graph itself means.  Assuming that each graph is describing how someone was walking, explain their motion.

Week 3: Physics, the Human Adventure Ch. 9.2-9.5 and Ch 10 through (and including) 10.2

Warm Up questions — due via email by 5 pm on Wed Sept. 13

Do Problems 9.1 and 9.4.  (Remember to treat these as a writing assignment, paying attention to grammatical issues and setting forth your thoughts logically and clearly.)

Do the calculation in Problem 10.5, showing your work and what numbers you used.  You may want to hand this in on a separate sheet if that would be easier.

Week ??: Physics, the Human Adventure Ch. 17.1-17.6

Warm Up question — is a detailed outline of the chapter

Due by 5 pm on Mon. Sept 25.  You may turn it in on paper or via email, whichever you find easier.

Required Events

For each of these that you attend, you need to write a one page paper about that event: what you heard/saw, what you learned, what the point of the event was and some personal evaluation of the event.

The point of requiring these activities is so that you learn about the variety of options available to you on campus.

  • Ethics teach-in (Tues Sept 12)
  • At least two convocations (usually Tuesday or Thursday around lunchtime)
  • One sporting event
  • One musical event
  • One theatre production
  • One weekend KCPB program
  • One event on a health issue (Fall alcohol symposium [?Sept 18/19], AIDS/Focus on Living [Oct. 8-12], Alcohol Awareness [Oct. 16-20], Wellness program [Sept 13, Oct. 4] etc)




Week 1 : 22/24 Aug Syllabus, class scheduleBegin accelerometers (handout)
Estimation, size of pace
Triangulation, height of flagpole
Week 2: 29/31 Aug Hand out first paper assignment
Talk about plagiarism — worksheetFinish and test accelerometers
Sensations – feeling lighter/heavierIntro to motion physics, vocabulary

Motion lab

Week 3: 5/7 Sept Science/media topics due
Lecture on position, velocity, acceleration
use graphs from HA ch 6
Linear speed, angular speed,
circular motion, forcesBowling ball experiments
Week 4: 12/14 Sept Science/media articles due
Hand out paper 1 rubric, discussLibrary visitLecture on forces, linear and circular

Work on amusement park results

Week 5: 19/21 Sept Roller coaster design web site
Conservation of energy web sites
Roller coaster experimentScience & Media paper duewriting workshop
Week 6: 26/28 Sept Due: detailed outline of ch 17conservation of energy
Human Adventure ch 17Campus Day — No Class
Week 7: 3/5 Oct Science/media oral reports
Week 8: 10/12 Oct Simple machines and forcesNo Class – Fall Weekend
Week 9: 17/19 Oct Conflict and the scientific search for “truth”
Week 10: 24/26 Oct Advising Science and conflict paper dueBuilding big web site, hand out activities

Building big activities

Week 11: 31 Oct/ 2 Nov  Advising Kathryn Craig — career centerDiscuss annotated bib assignment
Writing issuesBernoulli’s equation lecture, demos
Sailing simulator, race car dynamics, weather applications
Week 12: 7/9 Nov Research paper due
writing workshopResearch paper talks
Week 13: 14/16 Nov Research paper talks

Course Goals:

One of the main goals of this course is to develop your college-level intellectual inquiry skills.  We will do this through practice and evaluation focused on writing, discussion and oral presentation.  This means you will be writing frequently, and there will be many opportunities for you to gain experience with various types of speaking, from formal presentations to participation in discussions.

Another goal is to learn some physics.  You will explore a wide variety of topics–from simple things like shapes and inclined planes to complicated aerodynamic effects on race cars; from mechanics to fluid flow.   Always feel free to ask questions.  I know this material will be new to many of you, but I hope you will find that physics is everywhere in your life and that you can understand a great deal of what happens and why it happens.  You will also explore how a scientific community seeks anwers and deals with conflicts.

Finally, my goal is for you to discover that physics is indeed fun!

Reading List: (though additional reading will be provided later)

Gerald Holton and Stephen G. Brush, Physics, The Human Adventure: From Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond

Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers, 5th Ed.

Diana Hacker, Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age, 2nd Ed.

Course Expectations:

You are expected to be active participants in class.  This means more than just making sure your opinion is heard during each of the discussions.  It means actively listening to your classmates, your TA, and me.  It is especially important to listen closely and to try to understand those who oppose your views.  As an active participant, it is also your responsibility to help others to participate in discussions, and to do your best to help all people feel comfortable in the classroom.  An integral part of preparing for a discussion or other activity in class is to do the assigned reading and associated writing assignments.

Grading and Attendance policy:

Your grade will consist of three formal writing assignments, rewrites of two of them, writing in the form of WarmUps (responses to reading), two oral assignments, in-class participation and event participation, equally weighted.  This means that each of those will be 10% of your grade.

Because a significant portion of what we do in class cannot be duplicated with outside assignments, attendance is going to be critical, and being late will count against you as well.  You get one free, excused absence.  I don’t even need to know the reason!  After that, missed classes will drop your final grade by 2%; two late arrivals count as an absence.

Late Penalties:

Stay on track and get your work done on time.  Turning papers in late will affect your grade.  Absence from class on the day an assignment is due does not exempt you from late penalties.  Your grade on an assignment will drop 1/3 of a grade for each day that it is late (for example, a B+ paper will drop to a B).


All essays must be typed.  Use an easily readable font in 10 point or 12 point (Times, Times New Roman, Palatino, and Century Schoolbook are some good choices) and make your margins no larger than 1½ inches.  Double-space your essays, including indented quotes.  Include your name, the class number, my name, and the date at the top of the first page; each additional page should include your last name and the page number.  Every assignment should also have a title, but do not use a separate title page (save a tree).  All documentation should follow MLA format (we will cover this during the term).   For instructions and an example of a paper in MLA style, see of Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers.

Academic Honesty:

A learning community such as Hiram College depends on academic honesty; learning and growth, trust and meaningful intellectual interaction cannot survive without it.  Plagiarism is the most common form of dishonesty and is considered a serious violation of the integrity of the academic community.  Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas—even if put into your own words—of another without appropriate acknowledgement.  Punishment for plagiarism can include an F for the assignment, an F for the course, or suspension from the college.  Don’t be tempted!  If you’re EVER unsure whether you have documented sources correctly, ask!