Physics 271 - General Physics Lab:
Vibrations, Waves, Heat, Electricity and Magnetism
Spring 2012 Syllabus
Last Modification 11/10/12

Course Description:
General Physics: Vibrations, Waves, Heat, Electricity and Magnetism (Laboratory). (1 credit) Grade Method: REG/P-F/AUD. The lab includes experiments on mechanics, vibrations, waves, heat, electricity and magnetism. PHYS270 and PHYS271 (lab) must be taken in the same semester and the grade for the courses will be combined into a single grade for both. To pass, students must complete, with a passing grade, work in both PHYS270 and PHYS271. Students must pay a $50.00 laboratory materials fee.
Pre-requisite: PHYS261
Co-requisite: PHYS270
Textbook: PHYS271 Laboratory Manual, Fall 2006 Edition.
Required Software: You will need a Mastering Physics Access code so you can do the pre-lab questions on-line. If you have acquired an access code within the last year you are all set because your code is good for two years. If you don't already have an access code, then you have two options:
  1. Purchase the Mastering Physics access code at for $60.50 (new price). This is what you will need to do if you purchased a used book or an unbundled volume.
  2. Buy textbook bundles with Mastering Physics directly from the publisher. Only one volume needs to be bundled with Mastering Physics, other volumes can be bought unbundled.
The access number is needed to get on-line access to the web-based homework collection system called Mastering Physics. If you are wondering if you really need to get the book and access number to pass the course, the answer is: Yes, you really need to get the book and access number to pass the course. The class ID for the Physics 271 Lab is MPHILL30840. The URL is
CORE status: This course is designated a CORE Physical Science Lab (PL) Course when taken in conjunction with PHYS270.
Instructor: Prof. Wendell T. Hill, III
Dept. of Physics
Institute of Physical Science and Technology
Joint Quantum Institute
2107 CSS (Bldg. #224)
(301) 405-4813 (on campus x54813)
wth 'at' umd 'dot' edu
Section Information:
Teaching Assistant
Zarket, Brady
bzarket 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 M 3:00 PM - 5:50 PM
Zarket, Brady
bzarket 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 M 6:00 PM - 8:50 PM
Lee, Chang
changhun 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 Tu 10:00 AM - 12:50 PM
Nag, Amit
anag 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 Tu 1:00 PM - 3:50 PM
Nag, Amit
anag 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 Tu 4:00 PM - 6:50 PM
Zarket, Brady
bzarket 'at umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 W 1:00 PM - 3:50 PM
Lee, Chang
changhun 'at umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 Th 11:00 AM - 1:50 PM
Nag, Amit
anag 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 Th 2:00 PM - 4:50 PM
Lee, Chang
changhun 'at' umd 'dot' eduPHYS3220 Th 5:00 PM - 7:50 PM


  M Tu W Th F
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
10:00 AM
11:00 AM
12:00 PM
1:00 PM
2:00 PM
3:00 PM
4:00 PM
5:00 PM
6:00 PM
7:00 PM
8:00 PM
9:00 PM

Faculty Office Hours: Tuesday 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Wednesday 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
or by email appointment
TA Office Hours: TBA by your TA.
Course Outline:

Ordinarily your Physics 271 lab meets every week. The exceptions are the first two weeks, when there are no labs (the first and second weeks of class are too short for all sections to meet), and Thanksgiving week, when people will be able to make-up a Lab they missed. See the Schedule below. If you are not familiar with using an Excel spreadsheet, you can stop by the second week of classes to get some practice. Otherwise, we expect to see you in the lab on the third week of classes (the week of Sept 10). Don’t be late.

Each lab session lasts three hours, and will begin with a 10 minute discussion of the lab by the TA. Each week you must turn in answers to the Prelab questions by putting your solutions into Mastering Physics before the start of your lab period. The pre-lab questions are found in the lab manual.

At the end of your lab session, you need to turn in a lab report. This report is to be turned in to the Physics 271 area in ELMS Blackboard. The report itself consists of an Excel spreadsheet that will contain all data taken, as well as an analysis and a discussion -- answers to the post lab questions. The report is expected to be a succinct summary of data, analysis and conclusions without redundant or superfluous discussion. The spreadsheet itself must be turned in at the end of the lab session (upload it to the Physics 271 site on ELMS Blackboard). Lab reports turned in after the end of a lab but less than an hour late will have 10% of the total possible score deducted. Lab reports turned in more than one hour late will lose all credit for the lab. The key point is to turn in a copy of your report before you leave. In fact, it is best if you upload copies regularly to Blackboard as you are working on the experiment so that there is no chance of getting a zero for a lab you completed.

Prelab Questions: Prelab Questions are due before the start of your lab section. You must log into the Physics 271 area in Mastering Physics and turn in the answers to your questions no later than the start of your regular lab session. The labs generally require less than two hours to perform, leaving ample time for analysis and interpretation. However, to perform the experiment in this limited time you will have to be prepared. It is therefore essential that you come to lab having completed the prelab questions and having read and understood the lab write-up. It should not surprise you to learn that the answers to all the Prelab Questions can be found by reading the lab.
Lab Report: At the end of your lab session, you will need to turn in a lab report. Lab reports are not meant to be long or extremely time consuming. In fact, in this class all we require you to turn in is the Excel file in which you recorded all your data, made plots, did the analysis and wrote out the answers to the questions.
Post Lab Questions: At the end of each lab there is typically a set of “Final Questions”. These are to be completed and turned in with your lab report spreadsheet at the end of each lab session.
Culminating Labs: These labs are closed book practical exams, in which you answer questions about the experiments you have completed, and may require you to take data using the equipment from the prior lab sessions. To give you a better idea of what is involved, there is a practice lab for the Culminating Lab. You are not required to attend this practice, but failure to prepare for the Culminating Lab will likely be detrimental to your performance on the real exam.
Missing Labs: In order to pass the class all labs, including all culminating labs, must be completed, without exception. Students are permitted to perform labs in make-up sessions only if they have a legitimate reason for failing to attend a lab session. In the event that you miss a lab session, e-mail the instructor (in addition to your TA), who may be able to make arrangements for you to attend another section during the same week. If you do not hear from your instructor right away, then by all means try stopping by the Lab to see if there is an open spot. The labs are full and in general there will not be any open seats available. If you find an open seat, you will need to make sure that the TA who is teaching that session, your regular TA and the instructor are all aware of your situation. It is not OK to just go to a section because it is more convenient than your assigned section.
Regular labs 65%
Culminating labs 35%

Each individual lab will be graded as follows:
prelab questions (due before your lab session starts!) 15%
data (due at the end of your lab session!) 40%
analysis (due at the end of your lab session!) 30%
post lab questions (due at the end of your lab session!) 15%

Lab Schedule:
Week Dates
Exp #
Experiment Title
Aug 29 - Aug 30
No labs
Sept 3 - Sept 6
Labor Day week - No labs but stop by the lab for review of Excel
Sept 10 - Sept 13
Equipotoentials and Fields (Experiment 0)
Sept 17 - Sept 20
The Multimeter and the Oscilloscope
Sept 24 - Sept 27
Resistors and Capacitors
Oct 1 - Oct 4
Faraday's Law of Induction
Oct 8 - Oct 11
Resonance in LRC Circuits
Oct 15 - Oct 18
0 - IV
Review for the first culminating lab and make-up labs
Oct 22 - Oct 25
0 - IV
First Culminating Lab
Oct 29 - Nov 1
Nov 5 - Nov 8
Polarization and Polarized Light (Experiment VI)
Nov 12 - Nov 15
The Hydrogen Spectrum
Nov 19 - Nov 21
Make up for Lab (Secs. 0102 - 0107)
Nov 22 - Nov 23
Thanksgiving - No Lab
Nov 26 - Nov 29
Review for the second culminating lab and make-up labs
Dec 3 - Dec 6
Second Culminating Lab
Important Notes: (1) YOU MUST COMPLETE ALL THE LABS IN PHYSICS 271 IN ORDER TO PASS PHYSICS 270. There are no exceptions. Students who do not complete all of the experiments in physics 271 will automatically get an F in both Physics 270 and Physics 271. Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently.
(2) Phys 271 sections will start meeting the second week of class. You must do Experiment 0 to be eligible to do the rest of the course.
(3) You must take the Culminating Lab, which is a practical exam, in order to pass the course.
(4) No lab, prelab, or exam scores will be dropped. Missing a lab will require that you make it up as soon as possible, and preferably in the same week that it is missed. The new due date must be arranged by consulting with Professor Hill (wth "at" as soon as possible after it becomes apparent that there will be a problem. If you are going to miss a lab because of a religious holiday, it is your responsibility to inform the instructor of any intended absences for religious observances in advance, so that suitable arrangements can be made.

About the course: Physics 271 is the lab for the third semester of the three-semester 161/260/270 sequence in introductory physics intended for engineering students. You must also be enrolled in the Physics 270 in order to pass Physics 271. Physics 270/271 is a CORE physical science course with a lab. Students are responsible for all assigned material, including reading, homework and labs.

Exams: There are two exams in the class, the Culminating Labs, which constitute a practical test of what you have learned in the lab. If you cannot attend the exam at the scheduled time, see Professor Hill before the exam! If you miss the exam with a valid excuse, a makeup exam will be given and it is your responsibility to arrange this in a timely fashion with the instructor. Students are responsible for all material in the lab and homework.

Excuses: Turning in a late lab report, or missing a lab or exam is not allowed without a valid documented excuse as defined by the University (medical problem, religious holiday, or serious family crisis). In all cases, a makeup lab or exam must be completed in a reasonable amount of time or you will receive a score of zero. The makeup exam or lab, and the due date, must be arranged by consulting with Professor Hill as soon as possible after it becomes apparent that an exam or assignment due date will be missed. If you are going to miss a lab or exam because of a religious holiday, it is your responsibility to inform the instructor in advance so that suitable arrangements can be made.

Getting started on electronic submission of Prelab Questions: In order to turn in answers to the prelab questions, you will need to register at the Mastering Physics website To register, you need two things - an access number and the class ID. The access number will be packaged with new copies of the Knight text book. In other words, when you buy your textbook you need to get a new copy that comes packaged with an access number. The class ID for the Physics 271 Lab is MPHILL30840.

The site is best accessed with a current version of Windows Explorer. If you run into problems check the system requirements. If you have not used Mastering Physics before then you should log on to the site and try the practice set before attempting any of the real prelab sets. Note that the software may randomize the numbers on a problem, so be careful and remember that other students working on exactly the same problems may have different numbers! The best way to do physics problems is first to work out carefully a general solution and then plug in the numbers at the end. This is especially true if the numbers are being randomized each time so everyone has different numbers. For calculating complicated expressions, I strongly recommend using an electronic spreadsheet, such as Excel, rather than a calculator.

Academic honesty: I expect you to get together in small groups and discuss the labs. However, do not use these discussions as an excuse to copy someone else's data, prelab answers or solutions to the homework or let someone else copy your solution. That is cheating. The right way to proceed is first to read through the lab, then do the prelab, and then take a look at the homework. With this preparation you can then discuss with others and see if you have missed something. All work you submit must be your own and should reflect your own understanding. Academic dishonesty, including copying homework, Googling for solutions on the web, or cheating on an exam, is a very serious offense which may result in suspension or expulsion from the University. Don’t do it. Details on the policy can be found at

Help with understanding the material: Learning physics and engineering is a cumulative process; the knowledge learned at each stage builds upon previous knowledge and skills. If you find that you are falling behind, seek help early, rather than waiting until just before an exam. Help can be obtained by:
• Regularly attending lecture and discussion sections.
• Visiting the Slawsky Clinic, in room 1140 Physics Building.
• Going to the office hours of Professor Hill or your TA.
• The Learning Assistance Service (2201 Schoemaker Bldg., 301-314-7693) helps students with time management, reading, note taking, and exam preparation skills.

If you find that you are having more general academic problems, or are having trouble figuring out what you want to do, I recommend that you stop by Room 1120 Physics and talk to Tom Gleason, the Physics Coordinator of Student Services. Tom graduated from Maryland and also used to be an advisor in Letters and Science (undeclared majors). He is now the advisor for physics majors, but he knows all the University rules and is a great person to talk to because of his perspective on Physics and other programs at the University.