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PHYS 117 A: General Physics Laboratory

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
to be arranged
* *
David P. Smith

Syllabus Description:

Course contents

Through the online lab assignments, we will emphasize:

    • Hypothesis testing by experiment
    • Visualization of results and comparison with textbook expectation
    • Design of experiments

The topics addressed in the experiments are

    • Kinematics
    • Forces
    • Rotational kinematics
    • Rotational dynamics
    • Impulse and momentum
    • Energy


There are eight graded lab assignments, some of which may have multiple parts. You can see all the parts required in a given week under Assignments and in the table below.

We will use Pivot to perform video experiments.  I will announce how to get access to Pivot during the first week of the quarter. Note that you have already paid for the access to Pivot as a part of the lab fee that you paid during registration.

    • The instructions on starting a lab activity is shown here. You need to collect and analyze data from video experiments on Pivot and answer questions based on your work.
    • After you start any of the assignments, you can save your work and go back to it as many times as you want before its deadline, allowing you to talk to peers or a TA, and then go back and finish.
    • The labs are due Wednesday at 11:59 pm.
    • Lab Contents Available Due
      1 Lab 1 - Hill Runner and Introduction to Pivot  Tuesday June 22nd Wednesday June 30th (11:59 pm)
      2 Lab 2-2 - An Introduction to Studying Motion: The Ping-Pong Ball Bazooka and Lab 2-2 - Motion Graphing a Dry Ice Puck on a Ramp Wednesday June 30th (11:59 pm) Wednesday July 7th (11:59 pm)
      3 Lab 3-1 - Toy Car Investigation and Lab 3-2 Forces on Objects on a Ramp Wednesday July 7th (11:59 pm) Wednesday July 14th (11:59 pm)
      4 Lab 4 - Friction: sliding on an inclined plane Wednesday July 14th (11:59 pm) Wednesday July 21st (11:59 pm)
      5 Lab 5 - Boy on a Surfboard Wednesday July 21st (11:59 pm) Wednesday July 28th (11:59 pm)
      6 Lab 6-1 - Torque and the Human Knee Joint and Lab 6-2 - Force and Motion During a Hockey Slapshot Wednesday July 28th (11:59 pm) Wednesday August 4th (11:59 pm)
      7 Lab 7-1 - Blowdart Cart Collision and Lab 7-2 - Mathematical Modeling: Height vs Velocity for a Puck on a Ramp Wednesday August 4th (11:59 pm) Wednesday August 11th (11:59 pm)
      8 Lab 8 - Energy Conservation for a Spring and a Cart Wednesday August 11th (11:59 pm) Wednesday August 18th (11:59 pm)


Each lab assignment will be graded based on the following:

      • Meeting learning objectives (3 points): Questions in the lab are answered, and the answers clearly show mastery of the learning objectives of the lab.
      • Needs some improvement (2 points): Questions in the lab are answered, but some answers indicate a lack of mastery of the learning objectives of the lab.
      • Needs significant improvement (1 point): Many questions in the lab are not answered and/or indicate significant lack of mastery of the learning objectives of the lab.
      • Not completed (0 points): Significant portion of the lab is not completed.

You will get a grade of No Credit in this course if either of the following criteria is met:

      • You receive 0 points for any lab assignment.
      • You receive less than 16 out of the 24 points possible.

Make-up work

If you receive 0 points, 1 point, or 2 points, you can do or redo up to 2 labs without asking for permission.  After the deadline, you will temporarily no longer be able to submit new work.  Contact your TA and they can allow you to submit late work.

If you need to make-up more than 2 labs due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc.), contact me.

Resources to Succeed

This website describes recommended practices to succeed in this course, and contains a list of resources you may find helpful for a variety of issues students may encounter during your time at UW.  Contact me if you need help finding the resources you need.

One very important practice described in the above website is working collaboratively.  If at all possible, please do arrange with fellow students to work through assignments together.

Office Hours and Posting Questions

During the week the TAs will hold Office hours on Zoom where you can ask questions.  Click Office hours for the office hour schedule. 

Use the Physics 117 Slack Learning Community for physics questions or syllabus related questions.  Students are encouraged to answer each others' questions, but I will also monitor this frequently and will respond if needed. Here are useful tips and features for using Slack. We highly recommend downloading the mobile or desktop app, and turning notifications on so that you don't miss messages from your TA and other members.

Contact information

For personal correspondence related to grades, health issues, etc... send an email with your course (Phys 117) and name as it appears on Canvas to me (David Smith) at

For questions on the lab activities, contact TAs.

For administrator questions related to registering, overloading, etc... send an email with your course (Phys 117) and name as it appears on Canvas to the program coordinator at

Research Study Information

This course is part of a research project  examining student reasoning ability and attitudes about physics with the goal of  improving physics teaching.  By enrolling in this course you are automatically included in the study. Early in the quarter, students will have an opportunity to learn about the study and to remove themselves from the study if they wish. Your instructor will not know whether or not you participate. Later in the quarter, this link will become active and allow you to review the details of the study, contact a member of the research team, or remove yourself from the study.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for the accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (

Safe campus

I am committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus. I suggest you check out the resources available here. These include services if you have a lab or tutorial that is late at night and need someone to walk with you.

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. 

Screenshots or recordings of instructors, other students, and course materials during active video (Zoom) participation sessions are strictly forbidden. Streaming or posting inappropriate materials on any course platform is also not allowed. 

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: 
Mechanics laboratory. Credit is not given for both PHYS 117 and the PHYS 121 laboratory. Prerequisite: PHYS 114, which may be taken concurrently. Credit/no-credit only. Offered: AWSpS.
GE Requirements: 
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
April 16, 2021 - 9:31pm