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Activities

Small Group Activity

10 min.

##### Angular Momentum in Polar Coordinates
Students learn how to express Angular Momentum as a vector quantity in polar coordinates, and then in Cylindrical and Spherical Coordinates
• Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Whole Class Activity

10 min.

##### Curvilinear Coordinates Introduction
First, students are shown diagrams of cylindrical and spherical coordinates. Common notation systems are discussed, especially that physicists and mathematicians use opposite conventions for the angles $\theta$ and $\phi$. Then students are asked to check their understanding by sketching several coordinate equals constant surfaces on their small whiteboards.
• Found in: Static Fields, Central Forces, AIMS Maxwell, Vector Calculus I, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Curvilinear Coordinate Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

120 min.

##### Box Sliding Down Frictionless Wedge
Students solve for the equations of motion of a box sliding down (frictionlessly) a wedge, which itself slides on a horizontal surface, in order to answer the question "how much time does it take for the box to slide a distance $d$ down the wedge?". This activities highlights finding kinetic energies when the coordinate system is not orthonormal and checking special cases, functional behavior, and dimensions.
• Found in: Theoretical Mechanics course(s)

Small Group Activity

10 min.

##### Generalized Leibniz Notation
This short small group activity introduces students to the Leibniz notation used for partial derivatives in thermodynamics, in which the variables being held constant are given explicitly. Students are guided to associate variables to their proper categories.
• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s)

Problem

5 min.

##### Total Charge (HW)

For each case below, find the total charge.

1. (4pts) A positively charged (dielectric) spherical shell of inner radius $a$ and outer radius $b$ with a spherically symmetric internal charge density \begin{equation*} \rho(\vec{r})=3\alpha\, e^{(kr)^3} \end{equation*}
2. (4pts) A positively charged (dielectric) cylindrical shell of inner radius $a$ and outer radius $b$ with a cylindrically symmetric internal charge density \begin{equation*} \rho(\vec{r})=\alpha\, \frac{1}{s}\, e^{ks} \end{equation*}

• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Problem

5 min.

##### Vector Sketch (Curvilinear Coordinates)
(4pts) Sketch each of the vector fields below.
1. $\boldsymbol{\vec K}=s\,\boldsymbol{\hat s}$
2. $\boldsymbol{\vec L}=\frac1s\boldsymbol{\hat\phi}$
3. $\boldsymbol{\vec M}=\sin\phi\,\boldsymbol{\hat s}$
4. $\boldsymbol{\vec N}=\sin(2\pi s)\,\boldsymbol{\hat\phi}$
• Found in: Static Fields, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s)

Problem

##### Sphere in Cylindrical Coordinates
Find the surface area of a sphere using cylindrical coordinates. Note: The fact that you can describe spheres nicely in cylindrical coordinates underlies the equal area cylindrical map project that allows you to draw maps of the earth where everything has the correct area, even if the shapes seem distorted. If you want to plot something like population density, you need an area preserving map projection.
• Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Problem-Solving course(s)

Problem

5 min.

##### Vector Sketch (Rectangular Coordinates)
Sketch each of the vector fields below.
1. $\boldsymbol{\vec F} =-y\,\boldsymbol{\hat x} + x\,\boldsymbol{\hat y}$
2. $\boldsymbol{\vec G} = x\,\boldsymbol{\hat x} + y\,\boldsymbol{\hat y}$
3. $\boldsymbol{\vec H} = y\,\boldsymbol{\hat x} + x\,\boldsymbol{\hat y}$
• Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s)

Problem

##### Polar vs. Spherical Coordinates
Show that the plane polar coordinates are equivalent to spherical coordinates if we make the choices:
1. The direction of $\theta=0$ in spherical coordinates is the same as the direction of out of the plane in plane polar coordinates.
2. Given the correspondance above, then if we choose the $\theta$ of spherical coordinates is to be $\pi/2$, we restrict to the equatorial plane of spherical coordinates.
• Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Problem

##### Lines in Polar Coordinates

(Algebra involving trigonometric functions) Purpose: Practice with polar equations.

The general equation for a straight line in polar coordinates is given by: $$r(\phi)=\frac{r_0}{\cos(\phi-\delta)}$$ where $r_0$ and $\delta$ are constant parameters. Find the polar equation for the straight lines below. You do NOT need to evaluate any complicated trig or inverse trig functions. You may want to try plotting the general polar equation to figure out the roles of the parameters.

1. $y=3$
2. $x=3$
3. $y=-3x+2$

• Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Problem

##### Divergence Practice including Curvilinear Coordinates

Calculate the divergence of each of the following vector fields. You may look up the formulas for divergence in curvilinear coordinates.

1. $$\hat{F}=z^2\,\hat{x} + x^2 \,\hat{y} -y^2 \,\hat{z}$$
2. $$\hat{G} = e^{-x} \,\hat{x} + e^{-y} \,\hat{y} +e^{-z} \,\hat{z}$$
3. $$\hat{H} = yz\,\hat{x} + zx\,\hat{y} + xy\,\hat{z}$$
4. $$\hat{I} = x^2\,\hat{x} + z^2\,\hat{y} + y^2\,\hat{z}$$
5. $$\hat{J} = xy\,\hat{x} + xz\,\hat{y} + yz\,\hat{z}$$
6. $$\hat{K} = s^2\,\hat{s}$$
7. $$\hat{L} = r^3\,\hat{\phi}$$

Problem

5 min.

##### Distance Formula in Curvilinear Coordinates

The distance $\left\vert\vec r -\vec r\,{}'\right\vert$ between the point $\vec r$ and the point $\vec r'$ is a coordinate-independent, physical and geometric quantity. But, in practice, you will need to know how to express this quantity in different coordinate systems.

Hint: Be sure to use the textbook: https://books.physics.oregonstate.edu/GSF/coords2.html

1. (2 pts) Find the distance $\left\vert\vec r -\vec r\,{}'\right\vert$ between the point $\vec r$ and the point $\vec r'$ in rectangular coordinates.

2. (2 pts) Show that this same distance written in cylindrical coordinates is: \begin{equation*} \left|\vec r -\vec r\,{}'\right| =\sqrt{s^2+s\,{}'^2-2ss\,{}'\cos(\phi-\phi\,{}') +(z-z\,{}')^2} \end{equation*}
3. (2 pts) Show that this same distance written in spherical coordinates is: \begin{equation*} \left\vert\vec r -\vec r\,{}'\right\vert =\sqrt{r'^2+r\,{}^2-2rr\,{}' \left[\sin\theta\sin\theta\,{}'\cos(\phi-\phi\,{}') +\cos\theta\cos\theta\,{}'\right]} \end{equation*}
4. (2 pts) Now assume that $\vec r\,{}'$ and $\vec r$ are in the $x$-$y$ plane. Simplify the previous two formulas.

• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: E&M Ring Cycle Sequence sequence(s)

Problem

##### Curl Practice including Curvilinear Coordinates

Calculate the curl of each of the following vector fields. You may look up the formulas for curl in curvilinear coordinates.

1. $$\vec{F}=z^2\,\hat{x} + x^2 \,\hat{y} -y^2 \,\hat{z}$$
2. $$\vec{G} = e^{-x} \,\hat{x} + e^{-y} \,\hat{y} +e^{-z} \,\hat{z}$$
3. $$\vec{H} = yz\,\hat{x} + zx\,\hat{y} + xy\,\hat{z}$$
4. $$\vec{I} = x^2\,\hat{x} + z^2\,\hat{y} + y^2\,\hat{z}$$
5. $$\vec{J} = xy\,\hat{x} + xz\,\hat{y} + yz\,\hat{z}$$
6. $$\vec{K} = s^2\,\hat{s}$$
7. $$\vec{L} = r^3\,\hat{\phi}$$

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Vector Differential--Curvilinear

In this small group activity, students are given a picture as a guide. They then write down an algebraic expression for the vector differential in different coordinate systems (cartesian, cylindrical, spherical).

Use Vector Differential--Rectangular as an introduction. This activity can be done simultaneously with Pineapples and Pumpkins where students or the instructor cut volume elements out of pineapples and/or pumpkins to show the geometry.

• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Vector Calculus II, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Computational Activity

120 min.

##### Electrostatic potential of spherical shell
Students solve numerically for the potential due to a spherical shell of charge. Although this potential is straightforward to compute using Gauss's Law, it serves as a nice example for numerically integrating in spherical coordinates because the correct answer is easy to recognize.
• Found in: Computational Physics Lab II course(s) Found in: Computational integrating charge distributions sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

10 min.

##### Velocity and Acceleration in Polar Coordinates
Use geometry to find formulas for velocity and acceleration in polar coordinates.
• Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Total Charge
In this small group activity, students integrate over non-uniform charge densities in cylindrical and spherical coordinates to calculate total charge.
• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Gauss/Ampere Sequence (Integral Form), Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Small White Board Question

10 min.

##### Vector Differential--Rectangular

In this introductory lecture/SWBQ, students are given a picture as a guide. They then write down an algebraic expression for the vector differential in rectangular coordinates for coordinate equals constant paths.

This activity can be done as a mini-lecture/SWBQ as an introduction to Vector Differential--Curvilinear where students find the vector differential in cylindrical and spherical coordinates..

• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Vector Calculus II, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Vector Surface and Volume Elements

Students use known algebraic expressions for vector line elements $d\boldsymbol{\vec{r}}$ to determine all simple vector area $d\boldsymbol{\vec{A}}$ and volume elements $d\tau$ in cylindrical and spherical coordinates.

This activity is identical to Scalar Surface and Volume Elements except uses a vector approach to find directed surface and volume elements.

• Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Scalar Surface and Volume Elements

Students use known algebraic expressions for length elements $d\ell$ to determine all simple scalar area $dA$ and volume elements $d\tau$ in cylindrical and spherical coordinates.

This activity is identical to Vector Surface and Volume Elements except uses a scalar approach to find surface, and volume elements.

• Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Computational Activity

120 min.

##### Electric field for a waffle cone of charge
Students integrate numerically to find the electric field due to a cone of surface charge, and then visualize the result. This integral can be done in either spherical or cylindrical coordinates, giving students a chance to reason about which coordinate system would be more convenient.
• Found in: Computational Physics Lab II course(s) Found in: Computational integrating charge distributions sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Curvilinear Volume Elements
Students construct the volume element in cylindrical and spherical coordinates.
• Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Chain Rule Measurement
This small group activity using surfaces combines practice with the multivariable chain rule while emphasizing numerical representations of derivatives. Students work in small groups to measure partial derivatives in both rectangular and polar coordinates, then verify their results using the chain rule. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the relationship between a directional derivative in the $r$-direction and derivatives in $x$- and $y$-directions using the chain rule.
• Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Directional Derivatives
This small group activity using surfaces relates the geometric definition of directional derivatives to the components of the gradient vector. Students work in small groups to measure a directional derivative directly, then compare its components with measured partial derivatives in rectangular coordinates. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the relationship between the geometric gradient vector and directional derivatives.
• Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s) Found in: Gradient Sequence sequence(s)

Kinesthetic

10 min.

##### Curvilinear Basis Vectors
Students use their arms to depict (sequentially) the different cylindrical and spherical basis vectors at the location of their shoulder (seen in relation to a specified origin of coordinates: either a set of axes hung from the ceiling of the room or perhaps a piece of furniture or a particular corner of the room).
• Found in: Static Fields, Central Forces, AIMS Maxwell, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Geometry of Vector Fields Sequence, Curvilinear Coordinate Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Chain Rule
This small group activity is designed to provide practice with the chain rule and to develop familiarity with polar coordinates. Students work in small groups to relate partial derivatives in rectangular and polar coordinates. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the importance of specifying what quantities are being held constant.
• Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

##### Paramagnet (multiple solutions)
• Students evaluate two given partial derivatives from a system of equations.
• Students learn/review generalized Leibniz notation.
• Students may find it helpful to use a chain rule diagram.