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Computational Modeling in Introductory Physics Courses and Across the Curriculum

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Engineering Physics and Physics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics and Physics

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Paper Authors


Todd Zimmerman University of Wisconsin

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Todd Zimmerman is an associate professor of physics in the Department of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Wisconsin - Stout. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Partnership for Integrating Computation Into the Undergraduate Curriculum.

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Modern research and design are carried out using the three-pillars of theory, experiment, and computational modeling but many courses are still taught focusing on just theory and experiment. To rectify this mismatch, we have introduced a series of 8 computational modeling activities in a second semester introductory course on electricity and magnetism. A major hurdle to adding a computational component to introductory courses is that students enter with a wide variety of computational experience. Methods for dealing with differing skill levels will be discussed. Glowscript, an implementation of Python that runs in a browser window with no installation, is used to create 3D visualizations of electric and magnetic fields and to animate the motion of particles in the associated fields. Emphasis is placed on applying problem solving strategies to creating computational models and evaluating the output of the models, with a focus on developing computational thinking skills. It is important to create activities that focus on creating a computer model and involve minimal computer programming – the goals of the activity should highlight the model and not the programming syntax. In order for students to maintain the skills they learn as well as to understand the importance of computational thinking, modeling activities must be incorporated across a variety of courses. Our efforts to infuse computational modeling across the physics and engineering curriculum will be covered. Issues incorporating computational modeling across the curriculum will also be discussed.

Zimmerman, T. (2020, June), Computational Modeling in Introductory Physics Courses and Across the Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34319

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