PH202A RU02 - Physics I with Trigonometry - Fall 2021 - 3 credits

The official version of this syllabus is at

Contact Information

Course Materials


PH202A discusses the fundamental concepts of motion, including Newton’s Laws and the conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum. These physics ideas are foundational to all fields of science and applied science. During this semester, you will learn to solve complex problems from the ground up, translating questions from everyday language into mathematical models and applying fundamental principles to answer them. You will learn to reason qualitatively about physics problems, gaining an appreciation for how a result depends on its inputs.

Tentative schedule of topics

A very rough schedule of the course can be found at


You are expected to be comfortable with functions, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and graphing, all of which will be used liberally throughout this course. We will use symbolic, algebraic notation and manipulation liberally, in every class and on every assignment. You are not expected to have studied calculus. The math prerequisite is thus MT 260 or placement into MT 360A.

COVID-19 Policies

The format of this course will be set entirely at my discretion using the guidance from the University administration, according to the best current scientific understanding of the pandemic. The format may change as the pandemic evolves, and the safety precautions we observe when meeting may change as well. You are required to follow all safety policies set by me and/or the university at all times. There will be no tolerance for recklessness, and repeated violations will result in failure and removal from the course.

As of the beginning of the semester, properly fitting masks are required of everyone in the class at all times without exception. Vaccines are required of all students who have not received an exemption from the university.

My Classroom Rules – A Commitment to an Inclusive Classroom

More than anything else, this class is a community that values the diversity of experience that each of us brings to our shared journey in physics. My first priority is the creation of an inclusive classroom - one where everyone feels comfortable, intellectually challenged, and able to speak up about your ideas, struggles, and experiences. Our classroom, as well as its virtual extensions, must foster respect, civility, and an ability to listen. I’ll do my best to reach these goals myself, but I’ll liekly err at times. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make our classroom a more inclusive and productive learning environment. If anyone in our community is violating our commitment to inclusivity, please let me know. If I am violating this commitment, I welcome criticism so that I may learn to do better, and I encourage you to let me know. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to me directly about it, you are also welcome to raise the issue with our department chair, Prof. Stacy Chamberlin (

You should expect respect from me and your classmates, and you should also endeavor to be kind and respectful to everyone else. That means a lot of things, including:

We all make mistakes with others; the important thing is that we learn from them and use it to help others in the future.

Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting

College students often experience issues that may interfere with academic success such as academic stress, sleep problems, juggling responsibiities, life events, relationship concerns, or feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, or depression. As your instructor, one of my responsibilities is to help create a safe learning environment and to support you through these situations and experiences.

I also have a mandatory reporting responsibility related to my role as a university employee. It is my goal that you feel able to share information related to your life experiences in classroom discussions, in written work, and in one-on-one meetings, so I will seek to keep information you share private to the greatest extent possible. However, under Title IX and the Clery Act, I am required to share information regarding sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or information about criminal activity on or near Regis’s campus with the university.

If you wish to speak about these issues confidentially, the Office of Counseling and Personal Development (OCPD) can help. OCPD is located in the Coors Life Direction Center, Room 114 and can be contacted by phone 24/7 at 303-458-3507. For more information, see

Important Notes on Expectations and Success

How to Succeed in this Course

The topics that we will cover in PH202A are among the greatest intellectual achievements of humans. Don’t be surprised if you have to think hard and work hard to understand the material. You can perform very well in this class if you do the things necessary to learn physics:

Academic Integrity

Unfortunately, there has been a large spike in dishonest academic actions during the pandemic, so I need to spend some time being blunt about it.

Be aware: Any indication of academic integrity violations is grounds for sanctions up to immediate failure of the course. An indicent report will be filed with the dean’s office, and you maybe subject to other sanctions that your college or program imposes.

So what does academic dishonesty look like? In the modern internet-connected world, it is not possible to enumerate all types. In summary, though, you are expected to be submitting your own work, and if you aren’t, it is academic dishonesty. If you are looking at a solution by a different person to a problem that I have assigned, then you are committing academic dishonesty. If you are copying any solution and misrepresenting it as your own, whether you got it from the internet or another student, it is academic dishonesty.

Like I said, there are too many forms of this sort of thing to list, but I’ll mention a few key ones.

This list is not all inclusive. Remember: Your work is expected to be your own. Though this can sometimes be a difficult subject, it is within your grasp and I am here to help. Even though the class is hard, I also design the grading so that it is hard to fail if you try. I want to help you succeed, but you must be honest with me if I am to do that. Do not gamble your whole career on one test or assignment.


One of the most important aspects of success in fields of high levels of intellectual difficulty is self-care. It is also one of the most neglected.

Course communication

We’ll be using WorldClass for grade distribution and other digital communications. It will host homework and solutions. We’ll also use the discussions section for homework help, and you should feel free to chat on it, vent, organize study sessions, etc. I intend to cultivate a rather informal learning community, so you should feel free to make it your space, but please also remember that it is an extension of our classroom at Regis, so you should behave in compliance with the student handbook.

In particular, please note that I will not be answering questions that are purely scientific/mathematical in nature via private email. You are welcome to come by my office, ask in class, post on WorldClass, or contact a peer. I will be enforcing this rule to stress the collaborative nature of physics. You are unlikely to succeed in this class (or any other physics endeavor) on your own; you should make it a priority to support your peers and to accept their help. Collaboration is not only encouraged, it is implicitly required. I strongly suggest that you all frequently get together in person at times in addition to our scheduled meetings to discuss the material of this course.

In all cases, collaboration should be done in a productive, positive, humble, and honest way. You must do so in a way that is both productive for your learning and within the guidelines of the Academic Honor Code. This means that you should never be simply copying or sharing solutions - to do so is both useless for learning and an academic integrity violation. Seriously, don’t cheat, but seriously, help each other. This also means that you should be kind in offering assistance. Be generous, but do not grandstand or belittle. Listen as much as you talk, and always be asking yourself if your conversational approach is truly in service of truth-seeking and care for others.

Course Activities


Reading is an essential part of PH 304! Reading the text before class is very important. Our class meetings are to clarify your understanding and to help you make sense of the material. I will assume you have done the required readings in advance and I will not simply repeat everything you should have read! Our book is fairly well written and readable - it will make a huge difference if you spend the time and effort to carefully read and follow the text. The calendar has the details on reading assignments.


There will be a homework due approximately each week. Homework is arguably the most important part of a physics class – it is where you learn to use the concepts. You should start homework early and work on it consistently. You should treat the assigned problems as the bare minimum number of problems that one could plausibly need to solve to learn material; you should almost certainly be solving more problems than what is assigned for each topic.

You are encouraged to collaborate on difficult homework problems, but you must do so in a way that is both productive for your learning and within the guidelines of the Academic Honor Code. This means that you should never be simply copying or sharing solutions - to do so is both useless for learning and an academic integrity violation. Seriously, don’t cheat. You have no idea how easy it is to spot for your physics professors - the only question is when they decide to enforce it. Don’t gamble your whole academic career on saving some time on a homework problem. Instead, first take some time alone to attempt each problem and create your own ideas as to how they might be solved. Once you’re stuck, get together with classmates to brainstorm, talk through the problems, and work through a viable solution strategy. Finally, separate from the group, and write up a solution on your own, filling in the details. Remember, if you can’t solve similar problems on your own without help, then you haven’t learned the material and will not succeed on the exams or in real-life applications. Test yourself and, most importantly, be honest with yourself! For all assignments, the work you turn in must in the end be your own: in your own words, reflecting your own understanding. If, at any time, for any reason, you feel disadvantaged or isolated, contact me and I can discretely try to help arrange study groups.

You should cite any and all external assistance that you receive on any work - in fact, you should do this everywhere in life! If Angeline Kumar and Gunnarr Skuld helped you with part of a problem, then add a note to that effect (e.g., “Gunnar and I came up with the main idea of the solution together, and Angeline pointed out to me that we were counting the degrees of freedom incorrectly.”). If everyone, when hopelessly stuck, looked at the Wikipedia page for the “Ideal Gas Law” and happened to see a major piece of the solution, cite it explicitly. We all need help with physics sometimes, but we also need to both acknowledge that help and build on it with original thinking of our own.

In most cases, late homeworks will not be accepted. If you have an illness, family emergency, or similar excused reason for not completing an assignment, then you will be excused from that assignment. It is your resonsibility to go back and work the problems as soon as you can.

Problems will be graded for both correctness and clarity. It is not enough to arrive at a correct answer; you must show a logical process that starts from known, identified physics principles. Your solutions must be written clearly and include diagrams where appropriate. You must work the problems with algebraic symbols before substituting in numbers. If a number has units, you must write them together with the number (every time). You are expected to use vector notation correctly, maintaining the distinctions among a vector, its components, and its magnitude. In particular, please remember that a vector can never be connected to a scalar by an equal sign (since they are fundamentally different classes of mathematical objects) and that the magnitude of a vector can never be a negative number, although any of the components of the vector can be negative. If the problem has a numerical result, credit will be deducted if the answer is unreasonable unless you explain that it is unreasonable.

More specifically, each graded problem will be graded for:

Additionally, after the solutions have been posted, homework may be corrected with a color-contrasting pen or pencil up until the next homework due date. Up to 75% of lost credit in the Model and Valid Math categories may be earned back. This means, for example, that if your initial attempt is entirely incorrect but well explained, plausible, and correctly notated, you may receive a 60% for the problem due to no credit in Model and Valid Math but full credit in the other categories. This 60% can be raised back up to 90% if you correct your work in light of the solutions. However, you may not simply copy the solutions onto your paper; you must carefully show how you erred and how it should be fixed. For example, you might write something like “In this step, I assumed constant velocity. However, I should have included the acceleration due to the force of friction. Taking this into account, the equation becomes….”

If your solution reflects a lack of careful attention in general, due to problems such as illegibility, it will be returned ungraded. Problems that are given zero credit for insufficient attention cannot be corrected for credit at all.

This grading system rewards good-faith efforts at engaging with the problems. Because you have multiple opportunities to engage with and revise the problem, I will not comment extensively on the work when I grade it; you are expected to review the solutions online and revise appropriately. You are always welcome to seek help with these tasks in office hours.


You are expected to attend and fully participate in every class, both for your own learning and out of respect for your classmates. During class, we will have concept questions, problems, and other activities that are graded for participation. We will use a response system for in-class concept questions; you will reviece 85% of the credit on each question just for participating, and 15% for correctness.

I reserve the right to give unannounced in-class quizzes; it is highly unlikely that this will happen if the class is mostly keeping up with the reading and homework, but if dramatic non-participation occurs I will begin giving them without warning (I have never had to do this so far in my teaching career – let’s keep it that way!). There may also be other in-class activities that contribute to this category, depending on the difficulties and interests we encounter along the way.


The information below pertains to normal in-person exams. Remote exams, if ever necessary due to the pandemic, will have different formats and rules.

Tentative, approximate exam dates are given on the schedule in this syllabus. Firm exam dates will be announced 2-3 classes in advance. These exams will test your understanding of the content from assigned readings, class time, and homework problems. Exams could include a variety of types of questions, including but necessarily not limited to:

The exams will not be tests of what you can memorize; they will require you to apply the principles that you have learned to new situations that you have never seen before. A key part of your studying should thus be solving problems that you have never seen before without looking at the solution until you have solved it yourself. All midterm exams are cumulative, but they will focus most heavily on material introduced since the previous midterm.

For each exam, you may bring a single, hand-written equation sheet, no larger than both sides of an 8.5x11-inch piece of paper. Equation sheets will be collected with the exam and returned to you after the exam is graded. Your sheet may not contain fully-worked example problems, only reminders to yourself and important equations and definitions. Equation sheets that include fully worked example problems or other significantly non-reminder-like information will be penalized with a substantial reduction of your exam score per my discretion. Calculators without internet capabilities are permitted during exams. No other electronic devices, phones, are permitted during exams (except as accommodations for documented disabilities per Regis’s accessibility policies).

Students may only make-up a missed exam if adequate documentation is provided for an excused absence BEFORE the exam day (e.g., Regis sponsored activities, such as sports, travel to academic conferences, etc., illness that can be verified by a doctor’s note, death in the family, etc.). I will follow-up on any documentation that you provide and then decide if your absence is excused; if it is, we will work together to schedule the soonest possible time to make-up the missed exam. The make-up exam may be different from the in-class exam, at my discretion.

All exams are cumulative of everthing covered so far in the course, as well as any mathematics through pre-calculus. Physics is inherently cumulative, always.

Grading and Exams

Your course grade is determined as shown:

ActivityDatePercent of Grade
Midterm 1tentatively 09/226%
Midterm 2tentatively 10/1812%
Midterm 3tentatively 11/2212%
Final Exam2021-12-08 @ 10:10am17%
Homeworkusually Fridays38%

You should expect score distributions approximately as follows:

Letter GradeDescriptionNumerical Grade
AOutstanding scholarship.>87
A- 84 – 87
B+ 81 – 83.99
BStrong command of material.77 – 80.99
B- 74 – 76.99
C+ 71 – 73.99
CSatisfactory command of material.67 – 70.99
C- 64 – 66.99
D+ 61 – 63.99
DUnsatisfactory command of material.57 – 60.99
D- 54 – 56.99
FNo credit.<54

I reserve the right to assign higher grades than would result from this table according to my judgment of the difficulty of the assignments and exams. That is, I will only deviate from this table in such a way that benefits you; no final grades will be adjusted or curved downward relative to the above table under any circumstance. For example, if everyone earned above an 87%, then everyone would get an A, so it is in your interest to work together and help each other learn physics.

Further Policies

Additional syllabus policies, including all university-wide policies, are enumerated at