Term Project - Guidelines

(Also see Term Project Ideas, Advice, and Actual Projects.)

Your term project is a chance for you to learn some aspects of the course material (i.e. computational physics in general, and Mathematica in specific) in greater depth than we have done in class. It is also a chance for you to think more about topics from previous physics classes--Phys 121, 123, 220--or some more about related physics topics presented in this class. (If you have an idea for a project that doesn't quite seem to relate to physics, please talk to me about it in person.) You should take this project seriously, but if you are stressed or are not having fun, then you probably donít understand what I expect.

Your project may involve fitting/analyzing experimental data, symbolic mathematical derivations, a computer simulation, or anything along those lines. I expect you to pick a project which is not trivial Ė something that will require at least 6-8 hours of work per person. The bulk of your project should consist of in-class Mathematica coding, but if you want to take a couple of hours outside of class to do some real-world measurements, by all means do so. At the same time, I encourage you to pick a project which is not overly difficult or you may not be able to complete it by the end of the semester. Youíd probably do well to pick a project which you think you can complete in about 4-5 hours, because projects generally take longer than one would expect. A good starting point might be one of the assignments from a lab, which you then analyze in a deeper fashion, but topics of your own choosing are also just fine.

As stated in the syllabus, you are required to work on the project in pairs. If there is some compelling reason why you need to work individually, or in a group of three, you must make your case to me in person before turning in your official proposal.

There will be three aspects of this project, which each have deadlines marked on the class schedule: the proposal, the main "show and tell" oral report, and a brief final report with the data and Mathematica code you presented. They will be graded according the rubric at the end of this document. I have tried to be specific so that you know exactly what you need to do to get the grade you want.


The proposal is a short description of what you plan to do, along with a list of the group members involved. Send your proposal to me via email, with the proposal typed as text in the body of the email, not as an attachment. "CC" all group members on the email so that if I reply with comments/suggestions the reply can go to all members. It should be emailed to me by midnight on the date listed in the class schedule, and should be no longer than a couple of sentences.

"Show and Tell" Oral Report

The final lab period will feature project "show and tell" oral reports. This will be your primary report on what you did. This report should include things such as a description of the topic you chose, the results you expected, the methods you used, the results you found, and possible explanations for any discrepancies between what you measured and what you expected to measure. Visual aids are strongly encouraged--graphs, interactive graphs, even photos if you did any experimental measurements. Your main audience will be your fellow students. I expect your report to be at least a little practiced rather than completely "off the cuff". You will have 8-10 minutes for your presentation.

Final Brief Report

After you give your presentation, you will need to send me a final brief report. As with the proposal, send it via email with all group members CC'ed. Your write-up should be quite short, basically just a reminder of what you talked about in your oral report and a copy of your Mathematica code and any external data that you used (as attachements).


Physics 230 Term Project Grading Rubric





(10 pts)

Did you submit a proposal on time?

Was your proposal brief and in the correct format (text in body of email, all group members CC'ed)? 

Did your proposal show evidence that you had put some thought and preliminary planning into your project?

Does your project seem appropriate in scope and difficulty?


Oral Report: Format, Appearance, Length

(10 pts)

Was your project presented appropriately?

Were all partners involved in the presentation?

Was your presentation the proper length?

Did you appropriately make use of audio/visual aids (graphs, etc)?

Did you present your project in a way that is appropriate for your audience?  


Oral Report: Relevance of Project

(15 pts)

Did your project focus on an appropriate topic?

Did your project employ appropriate computational techniques? 


Oral Report: Difficulty of Project

(15 pts)

Did your project require some brainwork?

Did it require you to learn something significantly beyond what you did in the labs?

Is the work you did something that took/should have taken at least 6-8 hours per participant?


Oral Report: Understanding and Analysis

(20 pts)

Did your presentation show that you had put some thought and planning into your project?

Did your presentation indicate that you really understood what you did?

Did you draw correct conclusions from your results?

If you didnít get what you expected, did you have any idea why? 


Oral Report: Overall Assessment

(20 pts)

Does your project seem cool, fun, and interesting?

Did the other students enjoy learning about your project?

Does your project make people excited about physics?

Was the overall project done well, presented well, etc.?


Final Brief Report

(10 pts)

Did you submit your final report on time?

Was your final report brief and in the correct format (text in body of email, group members identified and CC'ed on the email)? 

Did the final report include the appropriate elements? (short  reminder of what you presented, the Mathematica code you created, any external data you used)


Return to course page