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PHYS 117 A: General Physics Laboratory: Mechanics

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
Th 1:50pm - 4:00pm
PAB B108
David P. Smith

Syllabus Description:


In this course, you will test models of the physical world During lab, you will work in a group of 3 or 4 students to discuss each other's ideas and to record and analyze data.  Then, each of you will write and submit a report on based on your group's results by the following week.

You can see all the required activities in a given week in Modules.

Learning Objectives

After this course students will be able to:

  • conceptually understand the statistical underpinnings of uncertainty.
  • quantify uncertainty in measurement and modelling.
  • design experiments to test a model.
  • judge whether an experimental result is consistent with a model within the estimated uncertainties.
  • write a scientific report with valid conclusions and discussion of results.
  • function effectively on a professional team to achieve a task.

Contact information

For questions send an email with your course (Phys 117), your UW net ID (the part before in your email address), and name as it appears on Canvas to:

  • your TA (contact information will be posted here, and office hours here) for questions related to your grades, report writing and homework, the labs.
  • me, David Smith at, for questions about your TA or questions that your TA may not be able to answer.
  • the program coordinator at for administrator questions related to registering, overloading, etc...



  • You will get a grade of Credit if you
    • earn 67% of the possible points,
    • participate in all 7 labs*
    • turn in all assigned lab reports/partial reports with clear honest effort*.

*See makeup policy if you cannot meet these conditions due to valid reasons.

  • Lab in-lab (35% of grade):
    • At the end of each lab you will be graded out of 2 points based on your lab notebook and your participation in group discussions. You need to have the TA complete the check off sheet before you leave the lab in order to get credit.
  • Lab assignments (65% of grade):
    • Each week after lab, you will be assigned a Lab HW and/or may be asked to submit a portion of your lab notebook or a lab report.
    • These should be completed by 11:59 pm on Wednesday night before your next lab section. 
    • Lab HW are submitted and graded individually.  They can be repeated as many times as you like before the due date until you understand the material.
    • If you submit your lab report after it is due, there is a penalty of 1% deduction of the score for every hour that it is late.

Makeup policies

  • To get the Lab in-lab credit

If you cannot participate in your regular lab session in-person in a given week due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc.), do the following in this order:

    1. Try arranging a Zoom meeting during your lab with your lab group.  This is a burden on lab partners, so please be considerate as this privilege is reserved for students who run any risk to others by being in the lab (other exceptions must be cleared by the instructor.)
    2. If the above option does not work, contact the TA for another session (from PHYS 117 or 121) to see if you can participate in their session.  A schedule of labs can be found here.  Be sure to contact your TA and your lab group members to let them know that you will participate in another section.
    3. If you cannot attend any lab section due to a valid reason (family and medical emergency etc.), please contact me, and we will discuss accommodations.
  • To get the Lab assignments credit
    • You are responsible for submitting each lab report and doing the lab HW, even if you missed a lab or you conducted an experiment in another lab section. If you missed the lab, read the lab handout, then obtain data from your lab partners and discuss the  lab procedures with your lab partners and/or a TA during office hours.
    • If you could not turn in a lab assignment due to a valid reason, please contact me to discuss accommodations.

Resources to Succeed

This website 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.

Access and accommodation

Your experience in this class is important to us, 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 contact DRS to arrange accommodations.

Safe campus

We are committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus.  We encourage you to check out the resources available here.

For students who have a lab or tutorial section at night, night time escort services are available.

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. 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 (

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, copying other groups' data or reports.

Please note that taking photos or recording instructors, other students, and course materials without permission is strictly forbidden.  Streaming or posting inappropriate materials on any course platform is also not allowed. 

All the course materials including lab manuals and supplemental videos are intellectual properties of the instructor and the University of Washington. Distributing them in any form without permission is forbidden.  

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 or behavioral misconduct, ask us.  we are willing to discuss questions you might have.

Research Study Information

This course is part of a research project examining student reasoning 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. Please click on this link to review the details of the study, contact a member of the research team, or remove yourself from the study.

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: 
May 26, 2023 - 4:32am