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Re: [Phys-l] Engineering Physics

We've tried various permutations of what you describe. I would offer that your early mistake was putting Chemistry majors in an Algebra based course. They should be, should always have been, in the Calculus course--certainly P-Chem needs that background. Then today you would have two courses--one for Bio majors and a second for Chemistry & Engineering types. This is what works best for us. Combining the Bio and Chem students and then splitting the Chem students out for a third (Calc heavy) semester didn't work well. The math abilities of those two groups are very different. Now it is a real bear to try and teach both courses at the same time--keeping track of where you are and what you've done and said in nearly identical (on the conceptual side) but reasonably different (on the math side) courses is a pain.

Rick (Would like to separate the Engineering and Chem students as well, but don't have the staffing for that. We also have gen-ed courses--one specifically aimed at education majors and another at the general population--with two full-time faculty and a part time adjunct.)

----- Original Message ----- From: "Arts, Robert W." <>
To: "Forum for Physics Educators" <>
Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 11:06 AM
Subject: [Phys-l] Engineering Physics

Greetings All,

First some background on my problem........More than two decades ago we
used to offer algebra-based general physics for our biology and
chemistry majors and also calculus-based physics for those interested in
engineering and graduate school opportunities. Having neither a major
nor a minor program in physics, as you can imagine, the calculus-based
course was not heavily populated; if at all in given years. Having only
one physics professor on staff made it difficult justifying a course
that might only have one or two students a year (not to mention the
labs). So, we then transitioned to a system where the calculus physics
students would take the general lecture, the general lab, and then have
an extra hour of "calculus" filler. Well, needless to say, that did not
work very well either. So....a decade ago we killed the calculus
physics listing and added a course called Engineering Physics for 2
credit hours. The pre-requisite is algebra-based physics I & II,
calculus one, and a co-requisite of calculus II. In this course we do
not re-teach the concepts but rather dive into the math and theory
behind the concepts/equations and their derivations (where applicable).
Having personally done this for a while now, I am not satisfied with the
best way to offer this course. I have tried to use a university physics
book and pick through relevant items, I've tried engineering outline
books as the primary materials, and most recently, I have been using the
Calculus 2000 text as it has the higher-order math applied to physics

We've been sparse in offering the course at all in the past couple of
years due to a lack of interest (most physics students are going
pre-med) but we have stepped up our pre-engineering transfer program and
have a large group of those students in the pipeline now and foresee
offering this course on a more regular basis. So, I'm looking for the
best way to deliver the "engineering/calculus" material in a two hour
per week format. We do not have the option of splitting it back out
into two separate physics courses nor do we have the option of hiring
another person....So....Might anyone offer a similar course that they
could share experiences about? Or might anyone have a suggestion for a
text or approach?

Regards, Robert.
Forum for Physics Educators