Sample Labs
All inquiries to: E. Sternin

This page contains a collection of lab manuals, in a variety of formats, developed for the iOLab platform for 2020-21 academic year.

As we introduced the take-home labs based on the iOLab data acquisition system into our Physics courses during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to develop a number of labs that closely approximated our in-class labs. As some of the advanced unctionality of our in-lab equipment could not be reproduced with iOLab, there were changes, but we have been reasonably successful in covering the labs that supported our course content.

In our labs, we emphasize individual work, rather than group work. For a majority of our students, the two first-year Physics courses may be the last time they encounter hands-on work with physical apparatus, and we have always felt that it is imperative for each of the students to "get their hands dirty": to actually turn the knobs and switches, to make mistakes, to get a visceral appreciation of what experimental errors are. To that end, we try to emulate the real-world measurement techniques, freely employing computer-assisted data acquisition (rather than rulers and stopwatches), but insisting that data analysis is elevated in sophistication. All first-year students are expected to always perform explicit error analysis, monitoring \( \chi ^2 \) per degree of freedom of their fits to the data, among other things. Our support software is designed to provide such advanced functionality, and we strongly discourage use of spreadsheets which we consider an inappropriate tool for the numerical analysis of scientific data (the majority of our students do not have any background in the use of common spreadsheet software, anyway).

This may explain why we designed our iOLab Online software the way we did: trying to keep the data acquisition as straightworward as possible, but providing slightly more capable data fitting routines than is typical for the first-year labs. The students are instructed to follow the chain of "green buttons": Connect iOLab then Start to get data, Draw a plot, and Fit an analytical expression to the data.

Snapshots of some of our labs are posted here, in case others may find them useful. Feel free to use our ideas and materials, and please let us know if you do use them or if you find a better way of doing something. Many of our labs in 2020-21 academic year were essentially improvised under extreme time constraints; please, bear this in mind. The labs offered currently may well be different, so if you are a student registered in one of our courses, do not use these links - go visit your course web page, where the up-to-date information is posted.

We have also developed a collection of tutorial videos, filmed by our TAs. They will be uploaded to our YouTube channel, and links will be posted here as soon as they are in place.

Y1 labs: Mechanics (PHYS 1P91)
Y1 labs: E&M (PHYS 1P92)
Y2 labs: Mechanics (PHYS 2P20)
In our second-year Mechanics course, we significantly elevate the requirements for data analysis and scientific document preparation. The course is taken mostly by Physics majors, and the first lab is dedicated to an introduction to a powerful data analysis software, extrema. It is a slightly unusual choice (rather than matlab/octave, or python, or ...) determined primarily by the time constraints of our curriculum: we do not have a separate course that we can dedicate to software training, and this is the best package that we know that can be meaningfully introduced in the space of a single three-hour lab session, and yet has all the essential elements of scientific data analysis (plotting, fitting, vector and matrix operations, etc.) as well as basics of programming (loops, conditionals, subroutines) in its Fortran-like macro language. This is simply to alert the reader to the context in which the sample lab experiments below are offered. Note also that the second lab session is dedicated to teaching the students elementary LaTeX (we use and from then on, all lab reports are expected to be produced in this manner.