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Physics For The Modern Warrior: Bringing Innovation To Physics Instruction At The United States Military Academy

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

A Potpoturri of Innovations in Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.987.1 - 9.987.11



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Paper Authors

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Lance Calvert

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Michael Shannon

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Physics for the Modern Warrior: Bringing Innovation to Physics Instruction at the United States Military Academy

Michael P. Shannon, Lance K. Calvert Department of Physics, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY


The mission of the United States Military Academy is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character. Every cadet who graduates from West Point receives a commission in the United States Army and subsequently serves as an Army officer in a myriad of capacities. This charge has taken on a much greater significance in light of the events of September 11, 2001. The world has changed greatly, therefore the Army must respond by developing leaders who understand the complicated technological issues of today.

The challenges for today’s Army officers are much different than those of the Cold War era. Army leaders must understand complex devices like dirty bombs, computer-based technology, and countless types of high-tech gadgets that shower today’s battlefield. The challenge is to ensure that future leaders are able to understand how these devices work and the methods needed to prevent an enemy from using them against our forces. At the United States Military Academy, all third class cadets (sophomores), regardless of academic major, complete two semesters of calculus-based physics. The USMA Department of Physics has worked diligently to develop courses that are relevant, challenging, rigorous, and pedagogically sound.

This paper discusses the manner in which physics concepts are presented in the classroom. Specifically, how we motivate the cadets, by bringing the military relevance of physics into the classroom and the laboratory. We place a heavy emphasis on the focused presentation of theoretical concepts coupled with innovative and interactive demonstrations and exercises centered around actual military hardware. A selective curriculum of physics topics, tailored to meet our program goals of educating future officers, has been developed and implemented. This paper will highlight the techniques that provide a positive driving force to cadet learning and result in an Army officer with a solid understanding of the fundamental principles of physics on the modern battlefield.


On the banks of the Hudson River, approximately 50 miles northeast of New York City, sits the United States Military Academy. The oldest of the service academies, West Point was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to serve as an institution dedicated to the

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Calvert, L., & Shannon, M. (2004, June), Physics For The Modern Warrior: Bringing Innovation To Physics Instruction At The United States Military Academy Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13145

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