Interactive Simulations and Applets for Theoretical Mechanics

This project is open to students in any major. We will develop a set of interactive simulation applets and associated curricular materials for the HMC junior-level Theoretical Mechanics course. The concepts in this class are more abstract and removed from the physical reasoning of introductory coursework. The applets will focus on the most conceptually challenging aspects of the course material, including building intuition for the Principle of Least Action and the machinery of Lagrangian Mechanics, central-force motion, coupled oscillators, rigid- body dynamics, and Hamiltonian mechanics. The applets are designed to allow students to visualize and explore the connections between abstract concepts and the more familiar Cartesian forces and momenta. This project will incorporate current physics education research of engaged exploration simulations and active learning into Theoretical Mechanics, aiming to improve learning outcomes and student satisfaction.

Students involved in this research will have the opportunity to dig into more advanced topics in mechanics relevant for physics and engineering, and to develop computing and visualization tools as we work to make interactive software that will be used in advanced classes at HMC and other institutions. Student researchers on this project may also be able to explore relevant applications and topics of interest to them and develop applets related to these topics. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested to learn more physics, develop their programming and computational skills, and to get involved in education research!

Short Paragraph "Essay": It would be helpful in a few sentences to hear about why you are interested in doing research, what appeals to you about research in physics or education, and if you have particular skills that could contribute to research in our group (including computational skills, math/physics training, communication, etc). Optional: if you have encountered any barriers to get to where you are now, or other considerations that you would like me to take into account in evaluating your responses, feel free to comment on these. I will keep your answers confidential.

Name of research group, project, or lab
HMC Particle Physics
Why join this research group or lab?

Our group includes approximately 6-8 research students working on topics in particle physics and physics education. You will be able to work collaboratively and take part in research and social activities with our group (as well as others in physics). This project is unique and will have a high impact: there are very few similar resources for theoretical mechanics, and not only will you get to explore some very cool physics but your work may have a broader impact on the field well beyond HMC!

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Computer Science
Engineering Education
Human-centered Design
Teaching & Learning
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

Applicants should have completed or be currently enrolled in Mechanics (Physics 24/24A or equivalent), and include the name of one of their physics instructors as part of their application. Knowledge of Javascript is helpful but not required. Enthusiasm for or experience with visualizations and interactive simulations is a plus!

Time commitment
Summer - Full Time
Summer - Part Time
Paid Research
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Students will learn concepts and methods from theoretical mechanics (such as variational calculus, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics), and develop expertise with software tools used for developing interactive applets, simulations, and visualizations.

Contact Information:
Mentor name
Brian Shuve
Mentor email
Mentor position
Name of project director or principal investigator
Brian Shuve
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 22 appl.
Hours per week
Summer - Full Time (+1)
Summer - Full TimeSummer - Part Time
Project categories
Human-centered Design (+5)
Computer SciencePhysicsAstronomyEngineering EducationHuman-centered DesignTeaching & Learning