Smartphone & Computational Physics

Course Description

Using smartphones with built-in sensors, we will explore and conduct a variety of physics experiments. Together we will study the mechanics of solids, physics of waves, electromagnetism, optics, and thermodynamics using a smartphone or tablet as our main measurement device. We will then use computer software such as Mathematica to analyze our data and to make further predictions. We will also learn programming in Python to help with data analysis.

This course will provide an overview of Newtonian Mechanics. We will be studying one and two-dimensional motion, forces, momentum, energy, rotational motion, periodic motion, and light. Starting with the concepts of vectors we will move on to studying Newton's laws of physics. Learning about the conservation of energy and momentum will then lead to the analysis of circular motion. We will learn about periodic motion, waves, and light, which will lead to the development of some concepts in modern physics and electromagnetic theory.

Learning will be interactive, starting out with simple experiments leading us to concepts in mechanics. We will learn the theory behind our experimental results, and develop our experiments further to increase accuracy. You will be required to do some background reading, which will develop your critical thinking skills. You will work in groups, develop collaborative skills, and how to present their data in a way that highlights the concepts they have learned. This course includes an academic project that you will work on over the two weeks and present on the final day to your peers.

When possible, we plan to visit some of the laboratories at Brown University and observe the applications of introductory physics concepts in an advanced research environment.

By the end of this course, you will:
• Develop creative and critical thinking skills
• Learn to identify critical information that helps them in problem-solving
• Appropriately reason, synthesize knowledge and evaluate information necessary to solve problems and form perspectives on issues facing the world today


Some knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is recommended. This course recommends a laptop for course-related programming, games/simulations, etc. Please note that some devices (e.g., Chromebooks) do not allow software downloads onto a desktop and so will not accommodate the specific needs of this course. If you have questions about this requirement please reach out to [email protected]


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 18, 2022 - July 29, 2022
Duration: 2 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 8:30A-11:20A and 2 afternoon class sessions per week
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Renuka Rajapakse
Course Number: 10005