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PHYS 121 B: Mechanics

TTh 10:00am - 11:20am / PAA A102
Th 5:00pm - 6:20pm / KNE 130
Jason Detwiler Portrait
Jason Detwiler

Syllabus Description:

Welcome to PHYS 121 B, my name is Jason Detwiler, and I will be your lecture instructor. This is the first of a three-quarter sequence of introductory calculus-based physics. You should find this course challenging and stimulating, and I hope that you also find it interesting and enjoyable. Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to develop calculus-based models to describe the physical world pertaining to one dimensional motion, momentum, energy, force, motion in two or more dimensions, rotational motion, and gravity.

Due to the measures taken by the University, the course will be conducted entirely online. Please note that screenshots or recordings of instructors, other students, and course materials during active video (Zoom) participation sessions are strictly forbidden. Any student caught engaging in this behavior will be reported to the Student Conduct Office.

Given the sudden change not all details have been finalized, and it is also possible that some details may need to change depending on how things proceed.

Getting started

You will need the course textbook and an access code for the online homework system used in this course. The access code comes bundled with the textbook. The various options can be found here.

Once you have an access code, information on how to access the online homework system can be found here. If you have trouble with the online systems, please see this Troubleshooting Guide from Pearson.

Getting help

Use the Discussion Board (click "Discussions" on the menu on the left) for physics questions or syllabus related questions. Students are encouraged to answer each others' questions. The TAs and I will monitor the discussion board  frequently and will respond if needed. You can also use this to organize study groups, or if you are confused about an aspect of the syllabus etc.

Office Hours
You are strongly encouraged to attend the office hours offered by myself, the TAs, or Prof. Nourmohammad (from section 121A) on Zoom. This list of office hours will be updated as information becomes available:

For personal correspondence related to lecture, lab or tutorial respectively, contact the lecture, lab, or tutorial instructor. Contact the 12X administrator for questions regarding registering, overloading, etc.

Contact me if emails to others go unanswered for more than a week.

Class components

You can see all the components required in a given week by clicking on the Modules menu on the left. You can also find required components by visiting the Assignments menu on the left, or by going to the Canvas Calendar.

This class consists of the following components:

Lectures will be asynchronous and engagement will occur through graded discussions and numerous office hours through Zoom. Lecture components will be grouped into events that you can find in the Canvas Calendar for the corresponding lecture. Lecture components will be shared among all sections of 121 this quarter, and some material will be delivered by the other instructor, Armita Nourmohammad. The lectures will include the following graded components (they will be ungraded in week 1):

  • Lecture reading discussion:
    After reading the assigned reading for each lecture (see schedule below) you should complete the discussion assignment related to the reading prior to viewing the lecture videos. These discussions will be carried out among smaller groups of ~20 students. Grading of these assignments is described below. These discussions are designed to have you carefully think about the reading.
  • Lecture video quiz:
    At least a week before each scheduled reading I will post videos and slides associated with the reading. Quizzes will be embedded in these videos and will be required to be completed before the end of the scheduled lecture time each week for credit. Grading of the quizzes is described below.
  • Lecture homework:
    There will be roughly weekly lecture homeworks using Mastering Physics that will be due about a week after the material was covered in the lecture reading and video. Homework grading is described below.

Labs will be asynchronous and online. They will start in week 2. All important lab information can be found on the Labs page.

Tutorials (called "quiz section" in registration):
Tutorials will be synchronous and online through Zoom. They will start in week 2. All important tutorial information can be found under the "Tutorial Information" menu on the left.


  • Your grade will be calculated based on the following contributions

    Component ​Percentage
    ​Exams ​66%
    Lecture reading discussion 4%
    Lecture video quiz 4%
    ​Lecture homework ​8%
    ​Lab Section ​10%
    ​Tutorial Section ​8%

We will have two midterms and a final exam. More details about the exams can be found by clicking the links below:

  • Midterm exam 1 on April 30
  • Midterm exam 2 on May 21
  • Final exam on June 8 (10:30 am - 12:20 pm), June 9 (8:30 am - 10:20 am), or June 12 (2:30 pm - 4:20 pm)

Your exam score for the course is taken to be the greater of the following:

  • The sum of your midterm and final exam scores, OR
  • double your final exam score plus your highest midterm score

Note that there are no make-up exams. So, students with outside professional, service, or career commitments (i.e. military service, ROTC, professional conference presentation, NCAA sports, etc.) conflicting with the exam dates must contact me early in the quarter to establish alternate examination procedures. Exam scores for students who miss an exam without making prior arrangements will be zero.

Lecture Component Grading

  • Lecture reading discussion:
    You will be given credit for either asking a question or answering a question already asked on the discussion board, or discussing a part of the reading you found particularly interesting. These are graded based on a thoughtful attempt, not on correctness.
  • Lecture video quiz:
    You will be graded based 80% on participation and 20% based on correctness, and at the end of the quarter your score will be scaled by 1.25 (but not allowed to go over 100%).
  • Lecture homework:
    The lecture homework are done on Mastering Physics and can be accessed by clicking "MyLab and Mastering" from the menu on the left. Homework is graded automatically within Mastering Physics based on correctness.

Lab Grading

  • See the  Lab Course Structure page for the lab grading policy.
  • You are required to complete 6 out of 8 assigned labs on time in order to PASS Physics 121.

Tutorial Grading
The tutorial section grade is based on participation in each tutorial session as well as completion of pretests, but the largest portion comes from scores on tutorial homework.

Reading schedule

Below is the MWF reading schedule for the quarter prior to social distancing restrictions. We will roughly follow this schedule, with the MWF readings distributed into TTh lectures. For actual reading assignments, tutorials, and labs, please see the corresponding pages in Canvas.


Access and accommodation

Your experience in this class is important to me, so if you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but are not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical), please see details here.

Safe Campus

I am committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus. I suggest you check out the resources available from  SafeCampus.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form. Access the UW's Religious Accommodations Policy for more details.

Academic integrity and student conduct

The University takes academic integrity and student conduct very seriously. Behaving with integrity and respect is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community. Acts of academic misconduct may include, but are not limited to, cheating by sharing answers on exams.

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at

If you're uncertain about if something is academic and behavioral misconduct, ask me. I am willing to discuss questions you might have.

Catalog Description: 
Basic principles of mechanics and experiments in mechanics for physical science and engineering majors. Lecture tutorial and lab components must all be taken to receive credit. Maximum 5 credits allowed for any combination of PHYS 114, PHYS 117, PHYS 121, and PHYS 141. Prerequisite: either MATH 124 or MATH 134, which may be taken concurrently. Offered: AWSpS.
GE Requirements: 
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QSR)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
September 25, 2020 - 9:15pm