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Stepping Stones in Learning Electromagnetics

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics III

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1175.1 - 25.1175.6



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Paper Authors

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Yumin Zhang Southeast Missouri State University


David K. Probst Southeast Missouri State University

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David Probst is professor and Chairperson of the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at Southeast Missouri State University.

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Stepping Stones in Learning ElectromagneticsMany students consider Electromagnetics as a very difficult course, and they often get lost at thebeginning. There are several challenges: mathematics, imagination, as well as new concepts andapproaches. First, vector calculus is the language in Electromagnetics, and many students havepoor background in this subject. Second, most students can visualize the motion of particles, butthey have a hard time imagining the spatial distribution of the EM field. Third, a number of newconcepts and theorems are introduced in a short period of time, as well as new approaches tosolve problems.Ideally General Physics can serve as an introduction to Electromagnetics, however, the lifetimeof knowledge is rather short nowadays, as the students are overwhelmed by so many distractions.On the other hand, it is almost impossible to learn this course well without sufficient backgroundknowledge. We find that some basic kinematics concepts can be pretty helpful. For example, thethree basic concepts there⎯displacement, velocity and acceleration⎯form a three-levelderivative-integral relationship. In Electromagnetics, potential, field and charge or current alsohave such a similar relationship; the difference lies at replacing the derivative/integral over timeto the operation over space. In addition, in a mass-spring harmonic oscillator system, these threeconcepts form a loop, in mathematics it is expressed as a second order ordinary differentialequation. Similarly, electric and magnetic fields are also interconnected, and a similardifferential equation can be formulated, again the variation over time is traded with space.The result of this course is assessed by using Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism.This set of survey problems requires students to have a good understanding of the basic conceptsand theorems, so it is an ideal indicator for this course.

Zhang, Y., & Probst, D. K. (2012, June), Stepping Stones in Learning Electromagnetics Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21932

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