Enginering Physics I

Welcome to the Enginering Physics I course, PHY 303K. This page describes the section taught by Professor Vadim Kaplunovsky in Spring of 2004 (unique numbers 56545, 56550, 56555 and 56560). Other sections should have their own web pages.

General Information

  • Professor Vadim Kaplunovsky
  • Office: RLM 9.314A
  • Phone: 471-4918
  • Email: vadim@physics.utexas.edu, plain text mail only, no MS Word attachments.
  • Reserved office hours: Thursdays 3 to 4 PM.
  • Other office hours (I am likely to be in my office and available, but no guarantees): Tuesdays 3:30 to 4:30 and Wednesdays 2 to 3 PM.
  • Assistant Instructor:
  • Andrew Randono
  • Email: arandono@physics.utexas.edu
  • Office hours: Mondays 3 to 4 PM in RLM 9.222.
  • Lectures:
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 5 to 6:30 PM, in Painter hall PAI 2.48.
  • Attendance is mandatory.
  • There will be 10-minute pop-quizes during some lectures. To encourage attendance of all lectures, I will not announce pop-quizes in advance.
  • Disruption of lectures will not be tolerated. Persistent or egregious disruptiveness will lower your grade (if appropriate, all the way to F).
  • Tutorial (TA) sessions:
  • One hour a week.
  • Place and time depends on the unique number:
  • 56545: Fri 1-2 PM, RLM 7.118;
  • 56550: Fri 3-4 PM, RLM 5.112;
  • 56555: Fri 4-5 PM, RLM 6.114;
  • 56560: Tue 7-8 PM, RLM 5.116.
  • Attendence of the tutorial sessions is mandatory.
  • Textbook

    The main textbook for the Engineering Physics courses (both PHY 303K and 303L) is Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Serway and Jewett (6th edition). The older editions (by Serway and somebody else) are good substitutes.

    Syllabus and Schedule

    The Engineering Physics courses 303K and 303L are introductory rather than comprehensive. The 303K course covers Mechanics and Mechanical Waves (chapters 1 through 18 of the textbook); because of time shortage, Thermodynamics will not be covered.

    The detailed schedule of lectures, homeworks and exams is available here.

    The lectures will focus on the more difficult aspects of each subject. The easy parts -- which you can learn just by reading the textbook -- will be mentioned briefly or even left out of the lecture altogether. Nevertheless, you are expected to learn everything in the textbook anyway (except the skipped optional sections) -- and you will be tested for this knowledge.


    The homeworks are graded by the computer. This allows for immediate feedback and eliminates grader subjectivity.

    The same computer grades your exams, so it is imperative that you register yourself with the homework computer system as soon as humanly possible . If you do register late, you will miss homeworks and eventually exams and your grade will suffer; if you do not register at all, you will fail the course.

    First of all, read the instructions for using the system. Then register yourself with the system using unique number 56545 (this applies to all students in prof. Kaplunovsky's sections). Once you are registered, download homework assignment #1 right away and try to answer at least one question by the second class day.

    There will be 14 homework assignments during the semester. If you miss more than two, your grade will suffer.


    There will be four mid-term evening exams (AKA long quizes) during the semester and one comprehensive final exam at the end.

  • The mid-term exams will be held on February 18, March 10, April 7, and May 5, all Wednesdays, in room GEO 2.324.
  • Each mid-term begins at 7PM sharp and ends at 8:30PM. To find your pre-assigned seat, please come to the exam fifteen minutes before it starts.
  • The final exam will be held on May 13 (Thursday), from 7 to 10 PM (ouch!), rooms ECJ 1.202 and ECJ 1.204.
  • Bring your student ID to each exam. To discourage cheating, we ID everybody.
  • Bring pencils and calculators to all exams, you will need them. Don't bring books or notes, you will not be allowed to use them during exams.
  • There will be no make-up exams for any reason whatsoever. If you miss one mid-term, it will not affect your grade, but if you miss two or more mid-term exams or the final exam, your grade will suffer.

    A student that is unable to take an exam because of illness or other bone fide emergency should notify the instructor as soon as possible; in such a case the instructor will decide on an appropriate remedy. There will be no remedy for students who missed an exam because they forgot or were mis-informed of its time or location, could not start their cars or park them on campus, had dead batteries in their calculators or their pencils eaten by dogs, or any other asinine excuses.

    No books or notes will be allowed during any of the exams. A formula sheet will be provided.

    Many exam questions will require calculations. Make sure to bring a calculator to each exam. Before each exam, check your calculator and make sure it works and has good batteries; if it fails during the exam, you are SOL.

    The exams will be graded by the same computer that grades the homeworks. However, unlike the homeworks, the exams use bubble sheets for entering the students' answers. Please bring a pencil -- the bubble-sheet scanner does not read ink.
    Remember to bubble in everything you write down. Your bubble sheet should have your name, SSN and the version number of your exam pre-printed and bubbled in; make sure this information is correct or your test will not be graded!

    More exam-related information and advice is available here.

    Grading Policy

    The grades are based on the combined score compised of:

  • Fifteen percent (15%) of the average percentage score of the homeworks. To allow for emegencies, two worst (or missing) homeworks are skipped and only the best twelve are averaged.
  • Fifteen percent (15%) of the average percentage score of the pop-quizes during the lectures. Two worst or missing pop-quizes are skipped, the rest are averaged.
  • Forty percent (40%) of the average percentage score of three best evening exams. (13.33% for each exam). The worst exam or one missing exam are ignored. If you miss two or more exams, you are in trouble -- there will be no substitute exams.
  • Thirty percent (30%) of the percentage score of the final exam.
  • The combined score will be adjusted upward according to attendence (tutorial sessions and lectures). The adjustment is non-linear: It is very small for high scores but becomes important when the score is low but the attendance is high.


  • Because the first midterm exam was much easier than the other three, I shall add 8% to the midterm average ofr students who dropped the first midterm.
  • As promised in class, I shall add 5 raw points to every non-zero pop-quiz score.
  • The final exam will be normalized to 180 raw points instead of the maximium of 228 raw points.
  • For technical reasons, these adjustments cannot be made within the homework computer system, so you will not see them when you login to the system and check your grades. Instead, after the final exam for the course, I shall copy the raw data into my own software which will take care of all the adjustments.

    Here is the exact method I shall use: I shall start with the percentage scores hw01 through hw14, pq01 through pq06, mt01 through mt04, fin01, and at01, exactly as you will see them in the HW system. Then I shall calculate:

  • hw_avg = average( best 12 of( hw01 through hw14 ) );
  • hw_num = max( number( non-zero( hw01 through hw14 ) ), 12);
  • pq_raw_avg = average( best 4 of( pq01 through pq06 ) );
  • pq_num = max( number( non-zero( pq01 through pq06 ) ), 4);
  • pq_avg = ( pq_raw_avg * 10 + pq_num * 5 ) / 15;
  • mt_avg = average( best 3 of( mt01 - 24, mt02, mt03, mt04 ) ) + 8;
  • fin_adj = fin01 * 228/180 ;
  • comb_score = hw_avg * 0.15 + pq_avg * 0.15 + mt_avg * 0.40 + fin_adj * 0.30;
  • at_adj = max( at01 * 12/10, 100%) + hw_num * 5%;
  • at_index = sin( 90° * at_adj / 160% );
  • adj_score = ( comb_score^3 + (40%)^3 * at_index^2 )^(1/3);
  • The letter grades will be based on the adj_score as calculated above.

    Letter Grades

    I do not have pre-set brackets for converting the adjusted scores into ABCDF letter grades. The exams vary in difficulty from year to year, so the brackets should be adjusted accordingly, after all the exam scores are known. In the start of the semester, I promised that in any case, a score of 90% or higher will earn you an A, a score above 75% will earn at least a B, a score above 65% will earn at least a C and a score above 50% at least a D, but most likely I shall use more generous grading brackets (e.g. 85% for an A, 70% for a B, 55% for a C and 40% for a D).

    Here are the actual brackets I have used this semester.

    100% or more A+
    92% to 100% A
    85% to 92% A-
    80% to 85% B
    72% to 80% B-
    60% to 72% C
    51% to 60% C-
    45% to 51% D
    40% to 45% D-
    less then 40% F

    Exception: I adjusted a couple of marginal grades up a notch because I thought the student deserved it.

    Your Final Grade

    Becase of the UT administration's policy on confidentiality of the strudents' records, I cannot post the final letter grades on this web site. Instead, I have uploaded the information back to the HW System.

    Please login as usual to the HW system and check the dummy assignment letter01.

    For technical reasons, the HW System shows all grades as numbers. Here is the translation table:

    letter01 in the HW System Letter Grade
    raw percent FYI Registar
    4.20 105% A+ A
    4.00 100% A
    3.80 95% A-
    3.00 75% B B
    2.80 70% B-
    2.00 50% C C
    1.80 45% C-
    1.00 25% D D
    0.80 20% D-
    0.20 5% X
    0.00 0% F
    -0.20 -5% Q or W

    If you have any questions about your grade, please ask me via email at my usual e-address vadim@physics.utexas.edu. I will try to respond promptly, but during the summer I may go off-line for a while because of my travels.

    Last Modified: May 15, 2004.
    Vadim Kaplunovsky