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Course info: Phy 113

Time and Place MWF 11-11:50am Olin 101
Course Instructor Professor Salsbury  
Contact Info salsbufr@wfu.edu, Olin 301A

Textbooks/Course Materials 

Course Overview 

This course is an introductory calculus-based course in non-relativistic classical mechanics and thermodynamics & statistical mechanics. This course is a dual-purpose course. The first purpose is to prepare perspective physics majors for Physics 114 and 262 . The second purpose is to cover the mechanics and statistical physics concepts on the MCAT 2015 exam. Specifically, the first half of the course will be on the basics of forces, motion, work and energy, and momentum. The second half of the course will be applications to oscillations and waves, stochastic motion and thermodynamics, fluids, and statistical physics. 

Course Format 

This class uses a flipped format which means there will be voicethreads to be viewed before most classes with pre-class quizzes from the voice threads, whereas class time will be spent on conceptual questions and numeric problems. There will also be recommended math and problem solving videos as well throughout the course. There will be homework most MWFs staggered away from the course.

Outside of class you will be responsible for the following: 

  • Watching the relevant voicethread before class; whichever one(s) listed on the course assignment page.
  • Reading any reading assignment listed on the course calendar before class.
  • Taking a pre-class quiz by 7am most MWFs. The question(s) will be embedded in the relevant voicethread. The question(s) will be answered on a quiz in Webassign.
  • Completing a short homework by 11pm most MWFs on Webassign.
    • Homework topics will typically lag one or two lectures behind.
    • Getting behind on homework is the easiest way to do poorly in physics.
    • HW is the most important part of any physics class!
    • I grant extensions on HW readily, but not on pre-class quizzes, as the point of the pre-class quizzes is to ensure you are prepared for class. If you wish a HW extension, email Dr. Salsbury as early as possible, and definitely before the HW is due.
  • Attending lab once a week, starting September 3rd, and turning in the lab report as your TA instructs. 

Inside of class you will be responsible for the following: 

  • Interacting with your classmates and Dr. Salsbury.
  • Participating in in-class quizzes using Polleverywhere and your cell-phone or computer.
  • Paying attention during any demonstrations.
  • Asking questions!

Online Resources 

  • Voicethread: This is the primary content source for the course.
    • You will need to add yourself to the course group. 
    • You can comment on voicethreads; please do so to ask questions.
    • There is a VoiceThread app that can be used on an iPhone or iPad. This is how Dr. Salsbury prefers to record or listen to voicethreads himself.
  • Webassign: This is where the pre-class quizzes and homeworks will be answered. The gradebook will be there eventually.
    • This is the one non-free web resource we will use; you will need to purchase an access code after a free initial period.
    • If you buy a code at the bookstore, make sure to get the one for Section B.
    • You should be enrolled in the course already on webassign; if not contact Dr. Salsbury.
  • Polleverywhere: This is how in-class quizzes and questions will be answered via texting or a web interface. 
    • No need for clickers! 
    • Will need to bring a cell phone, tablet or laptop to class.
  • Course Assignment Page: Assignments and recommendations on a weekly basis. 
  • Course Calendar: A general course schedule, details will be posted on the course assignment page.
  • Youtube: Completely optional, but there are video problems posted post there worked out by a TA under my supervision.


The main textbook for the course, University Physics for the Physical and Life Sciences by Kesten and Tauck, provides a source of problems and a place to read about many of the topics that you will see on the voice threads. The organization of the text does not exactly match the course, so we will skip around some, and there will be some extra topics covered at the end.

Calendar and assignments

The course calendar: also embedded below, provides a general schedule of the class including exam dates. Specific assignment details will be on Webassign and the course assignment page .You can subscribe to the calendar, but do not just import events, in case of class cancellations and assignment schedule changes. You may have to scroll down on the calendar to see the 11pm homeworks.


  • There will be two midterms on September 24th and November 2nd. 
    • Midterm I is early and covers less material to ensure you have a test grade before the drop date.
  • The comprehensive final exam will be Dec 13th 2pm-5pm.
    • The final will be roughly 1/2 material not covered on either midterm, 1/3rd material from midterm II, and 1/6th from midterm I.
  • They are intended to be challenging but doable.


  • The labs are taught separately and without any explicit tie-ins to the rest of the course.
  • They may cover material that is not otherwise covered in the course.
  • They are administered by Mr. Chapman. 
  • The department requires that any student receiving below 60% in the laboratory fail the entire course. 
    • In the 18 times, Dr. Salsbury has taught General Physics I or II, only 1 student has failed the course solely because of the laboratory.


  • Working problems is the only way to really learn physics.
  • The homework is the most important component of the course.
  • Most MWFs by 11pm there will be homework, lagging about one lecture behind the course. 
  • Homework will be done on Webassign.
  • There are practice problems also on Webassign; you are encouraged to take advantage of them.

GRADING Percentages

  • Homework: 30% 
  • Midterms: 20%
  • Final: 30%
  • Labs: 15%
  • Pre-class Quizzes: 5%
  • Bonus points may be assigned for exceptional class participation; either on a per student or per class basis.
  • A gradebook will show up on Webassign after Midterm I. The grades there will be extrapolated assuming your performance on future tests are the same as on previous tests.


  • This median grade for this course is usually an A-.
  • The median on the HW+Pre-Class Quizzes+Labs is usually around 95%
  • The median on the midterms+final is usually 70-75% with the final usually the lowest score. 


These are the highest cutoffs Dr. Salsbury has used in the last 7  years: 

  • A 87.0%
  • A- 84.0%
  • B+ 81.0%
  • B 77.5%
  • B- 74.5%
  • C+ 71.5%
  • C 68.5%
  • C- 66.5%
  • D+ 64.0%
  • D 62.0%
  • D- 60.0%
  • It is safe to assume that these cutoffs may be lowered, but will not be raised.
  • Caveats:
    • By departmental policy, a score below 60% in the lab will result in an automatic F in the course. This is nearly unheard of.
    • Exceptional and productive class participation may be rewarded.