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Activities

Kinesthetic

5 min.

Time Dilation Light Clock Skit
Students act out the classic light clock scenario for deriving time dilation.
A group of students, tethered together, are floating freely in outer space. Their task is to devise a method to reach a food cache some distance from their group.
  • Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Computational Activity

120 min.

Sinusoidal basis set
Students compute inner products to expand a wave function in a sinusoidal basis set. This activity introduces the inner product for wave functions, and the idea of approximating a wave function using a finite set of basis functions.
This activity gives links to some external resources (2 simulations and 1 video) that allow students to explore circle trigonometry. There are no prompts and nothing specific to turn in.

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)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Earthquake waves
In this activity students use the known speed of earthquake waves to estimate the Young's modulus of the Earth's crust.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Hydrogen emission
In this activity students work out energy level transitions in hydrogen that lead to visible light.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

de Broglie wavelength after freefall
In this activity students combine energy conservation with the relationship between the de Broglie wavelength and momentum to find the wavelength of atoms that have been dropped a given distance.

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Thermal radiation at twice the temperature
This small group activity has students reasoning about how the Planck distribution shifts when the temperature is doubled. This leads to a qualitative argument for the Stefan-Boltzmann law.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Grey space capsule
In this small group activity, students work out the steady state temperature of an object absorbing and emitting blackbody radiation.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Optical depth of atmosphere
In this activity students estimate the optical depth of the atmosphere at the infrared wavelength where carbon dioxide has peak absorption.
  • Found in: Contemporary Challenges course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

The Hill
In this small group activity, students determine various aspects of local points on an elliptic hill which is a function of two variables. The gradient is emphasized as a local quantity which points in the direction of greatest change at a point in the scalar field.
  • Gradient
    Found in: Vector Calculus II, Vector Calculus I, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop course(s) Found in: Gradient Sequence sequence(s)

Lecture

120 min.

Work, Heat, and cycles
These lecture notes covering week 8 of https://paradigms.oregonstate.edu/courses/ph441 include a small group activity in which students derive the Carnot efficiency.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Black space capsule
In this activity, students apply the Stefan-Boltzmann equation and the principle of energy balance in steady state to find the steady state temperature of a black object in near-Earth orbit.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

The Park

This is the first activity relating the surfaces to the corresponding contour diagrams, thus emphasizing the use of multiple representations.

Students work in small groups to interpret level curves representing different concentrations of lead.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

The Cylinder
This small group activity is designed to help students visual the process of chopping, adding, and multiplying in single integrals. Students work in small groups to determine the volume of a cylinder in as many ways as possible. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the equivalence of different ways of chopping the cylinder.
  • Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

The Hot Plate
This small group activity using surfaces introduces a geometric interpretation of partial derivatives in terms of measured ratios of small changes. Students work in small groups to identify locations on their surface with particular properties. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the equivalence of multiple representations of partial derivatives.

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.

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

5 min.

The Resistors
This small group activity is designed to provide practice with the multivariable chain rule. Students determine a particular rate of change using given information involving other rates of change. The discussion emphasizes the equivalence of a variety of approaches, including the use of differentials. Good “review” problem; can also be used as a homework problem.
  • Found in: Vector Calculus I, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Wavefunctions on a Quantum Ring
This activity lets students explore translating a wavefunction that isn't obviously made up of eigenstates at first glance into ket and matrix form. Then students explore wave functions, probabilities in a region, expectation values, and what wavefunctions can tell you about measurements of \(L_z\).

Small Group Activity

5 min.

Maxima and Minima
This small group activity introduces students to constrained optimization problems. Students work in small groups to optimize a simple function on a given region. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the importance of the boundary.
  • Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Cross Product
This small group activity is designed to help students visualize the cross product. Students work in small groups to determine the area of a triangle in space. The whole class wrap-up discussion emphasizes the geometric interpretation of the cross product.

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Matrix Representation of Angular Momentum
This activity allows students to puzzle through indexing, the from of operators in quantum mechanics, and working with the new quantum numbers on the sphere in an applied context.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Hydrogen Probabilities in Matrix Notation
This activity reinforces the strategies students have been practicing on each system by letting them create their own matrix operators and columns on the hydrogen atom and do some calculations with them.

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Modeling Nonuniform Density
In this small group activity, students calculate a (linear) function to represent the charge density on a one-dimensional rod from a description of the charge density in words.
  • Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s)

Whole Class Activity

10 min.

Pineapples and Pumpkins

There are two versions of this activity:

As a whole class activity, the instructor cuts a pumpkin in order to produce a small volume element \(d\tau\), interspersing their work with a sequence of small whiteboard questions. This version of the activity is described here.

As a small group activity, students are given pineapple rounds and pumpkin wedges to explore area and volume elements in cylindrical and spherical coordinate systems. In this version of the activity, the fruit is distributed to the students with appropriate children's pumpkin cutting equipment, as part of activities Vector Differential--Curvilinear, Scalar Surface and Volume Elements, or Vector Surface and Volume Elements.

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

Kinesthetic

10 min.

Acting Out Charge Densities
Students, pretending they are point charges, move around the room acting out various prompts from the instructor regarding charge densities, including linear \(\lambda\), surface \(\sigma\), and volume \(\rho\) charge densities, both uniform and non-uniform. The instructor demonstrates what it means to measure these quantities. In a remote setting, we have students manipulate 10 coins to model the prompts in this activity and we demonstrate the answers with coins under a doc cam.

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.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Field of Two Charged Plates
  • Students need to understand that the surface represents the electric potential in the center of a parallel plate capacitor. Try doing the activity Electric Potential of Two Charged Plates before this activity.
  • Students should know that
    1. objects with like charge repel and opposite charge attract,
    2. object tend to move toward lower energy configurations
    3. The potential energy of a charged particle is related to its charge: \(U=qV\)
    4. The force on a charged particle is related to its charge: \(\vec{F}=q\vec{E}\)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Calculating Coefficients for a Power Series

This activity starts with a brief lecture introduction to power series and a short derivation of the formula for calculating the power series coefficients.

\[c_n={1\over n!}\, f^{(n)}(z_0)\]

Students use this formula to compute the power series coefficients for a \(\sin\theta\) (around both the origin and (if time allows) \(\frac{\pi}{6}\)). The meaning of these coefficients and the convergence behavior for each approximation is discussed in the whole-class wrap-up and in the follow-up activity: Visualization of Power Series Approximations.

  • Taylor Series Coefficents Power Series
    Found in: Theoretical Mechanics, AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Problem-Solving, None course(s) Found in: Power Series Sequence (Mechanics), Power Series Sequence (E&M) 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)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Quantifying Change
In this activity, students will explore how to calculate a derivative from measured data. Students should have prior exposure to differential calculus. At the start of the activity, orient the students to the contour plot - it's busy.
In this remote-friendly activity, students use a microwave oven (and optionally a thermometer) to measure the latent heat of melting for water (and optionally the heat capacity). From these they compute changes in entropy. See also Ice Calorimetry Lab.

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..

Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[V(\vec{r}) = \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\sum_i \frac{q_i}{\vert\vec{r}-\vec{r}_i\vert}\] to find the electrostatic potential \(V\) everywhere in space due to a pair of charges (either identical charges or a dipole). This activity can be paired with activity 29 to find the limiting cases of the potential on the axes of symmetry.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Working with Representations on the Ring
This activity acts as a reintroduction to doing quantum calculations while also introducing the matrix representation on the ring, allowing students to discover how to index and form a column vector representing the given quantum state. In addition, this activity introduces degenerate measurements on the quantum ring and examines the state after measuring both degenerate and non-degenerate eigenvalues for the state.
Students calculate probabilities for energy, angular momentum, and position as a function of time for an initial state that is a linear combination of energy/angular momentum eigenstates for a particle confined to a ring written in bra-ket notation. This activity helps students build an understanding of when they can expect a quantity to depend on time and to give them more practice moving between representations.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Time Evolution of a Spin-1/2 System
In this small group activity, students solve for the time dependence of two quantum spin 1/2 particles under the influence of a Hamiltonian. Students determine, given a Hamiltonian, which states are stationary and under what circumstances measurement probabilities do change with time.

Computational Activity

120 min.

Mean position
Students compute probabilities and averages given a probability density in one dimension. This activity serves as a soft introduction to the particle in a box, introducing all the concepts that are needed.

Computer Simulation

30 min.

Visualization of Power Series Approximations
Students use prepared Sage code or a prepared Mathematica notebook to plot \(\sin\theta\) simultaneously with several terms of a power series expansion to judge how well the approximation fits. Students can alter the worksheet to change the number of terms in the expansion and even to change the function that is being considered. Students should have already calculated the coefficients for the power series expansion in a previous activity, Calculating Coefficients for a Power Series.
  • Taylor series power series approximation
    Found in: Theoretical Mechanics, Static Fields, Central Forces, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving, None course(s) Found in: Power Series Sequence (Mechanics), Power Series Sequence (E&M) sequence(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.

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.

Computer Simulation

30 min.

Visualizing Flux through a Cube
Students explore the effects of putting a point charge at various places inside, outside, and on the surface of a cubical Gaussian surface. The Mathematica worksheet or Sage activity shows the electric field due to the charge, then plots the the flux integrand on the top surface of the box, calculates the flux through the top of the box, and the value of the flux through the whole cube.
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Gauss/Ampere Sequence (Integral Form), Geometry of Vector Fields Sequence, Flux Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

DELETE Navigating a Hill
In this small group activity, students determine various aspects of local points on an elliptic hill which is a function of two variables. The gradient is emphasized as a local quantity which points in the direction of greatest change at a point in the scalar field.
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Number of Paths
Student discuss how many paths can be found on a map of the vector fields \(\vec{F}\) for which the integral \(\int \vec{F}\cdot d\vec{r}\) is positive, negative, or zero. \(\vec{F}\) is conservative. They do a similar activity for the vector field \(\vec{G}\) which is not conservative.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Finding Matrix Elements
In this small group activity, students multiply a general 3x3 matrix with standard basis row/column vectors to pick out individual matrix elements. Students generate the expressions for the matrix elements in bra/ket notation.
Students use Tinker Toys to represent each component in a two-state quantum spin system in all three standard bases (\(x\), \(y\), and \(z\)). Through a short series of instructor-led prompts, students explore the difference between overall phase (which does NOT change the state of the system) and relative phase (which does change the state of the system). This activity is optional in the Arms Sequence Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Establish Classroom Norms
In this hour-long activity, students establish classroom norms for being respectful when working in small groups. This is particularly helpful in the first course a cohort of students encounters.
  • Equity
    Found in: Theoretical Mechanics course(s)