PHYS 523 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Instrumentation and Applied Physics Project


Course policies and so forth

The rhythm of things

Time-on-task is an important part of mastering the tools you will use this year. Rather than staging the various tasks for completing your project sequentially, you’ll work with many of them in parallel.

Each week you’ll advance the design of your data logger, write Arduino code to communicate with your sensors, further develop your plans for the field work necessary for your project (including the structure of data acquisition code), and address physical infrastructure matters like case construction and PCB fabrication.

We will be meeting face-to-face unless some new pandemic-related issue forces the university to change the mode of instruction. You are required to attend the course for the entire 2 pm - 4:50 pm Tuesday and Thursday class periods.

After the first week we’ll have a brief report to the class from one of the teams. Topics (which I will assign) might include how a particular sensor works, what an interrupt does, how the I2C data transfer protocol works, and so forth. A report should last at most ten minutes, be carried in at most ten PowerPoint slides, be presented to the class by all the team members, and be suitable for upload to the course web site. (That means proper attribution of sources, and so forth.)

What I require of you

Most weeks the homework will consist of a weekly assignment, and also moving your design forward as far (and as fast) as you can. I expect you will spend about four hours at this outside of class every week. You should work with the other members of your team as much as possible, sharing code and design tips as convenient. You should document your progress, your plans, your brilliant realizations, your frustrations, and your concerns in a physical paper notebook, or else a tablet that accepts handwwritten input and sketches. Use your judgment about collaborating on homework assignments: it's OK to work together, but you MUST understand in detail everything you submit. And when you make use of code syou find on GitHub or the Adafruit site, always include comments in your programs identifying the sources of code you've obtained from external sources.

You and your team members will give several reports to the class over the course of the year. The reports are to be clearly written PowerPoint presentations (with proper attribution of sources) aimed at your audience of fellow students, who will not necessarily know what you mean by, for example, “I2C interface.”

There will be no midterm or final exams.

In place of a final exam at the end of the fall semester, I will require you and members of your team to generate two documents, with all team members as coauthors:

In place of a final exam at the end of the second semester, I will require you and members of your team to generate two documents similar to what you produced at the end of the first semester, but describing your final results and conclusions.

The grading will be similar to my versions of Physics 241 and 371: if you work hard, are clever, come to all class activities, and do a good job on your homework and reports you will receive at least an A-. But if you miss class, fail to move your project forward, or do not do a good job on your reports, I will hammer you.

Your obligations include working in a safe manner: always wearing eye protection if you have to occasion to do any soldering and always washing your hands soon after handling metallic objects such as header pins or solder.


You are required to attend each and every one of the course meetings, arriving on time with your laptop computer, charger, notebook, and device hardware. Excused absences will be granted and documented in accordance with University policy as described in Article 1, Part 5 Class Attendance, of the Student Code.

You must file your documentation concerning an excused absence on the Physics Department's Excused absences portal within two weeks of your absence.

Excused absences fall into the following categories as defined by the code:

I will reduce your final grade by half a letter grade per unexcused absence. If you have an unavoidable interview for an internship, discuss it with me in advance as well as filing your documentation here.


There will be no midterm exams. But there are milestones of sorts that we ask you to meet, and will consider when evaluating your work for a grade. Please see the course "Topics" web page for what we are asking.


Course components used to calculate your course grade each semester:
  • Short in-class group presentations on technical issues pertaining to your project;
  • Quality and efficiency of your group’s collaborative interaction;
  • Quality of your project hardware and data acquisition work;
  • Quality of your offline analysis software work;
  • Quality of your submitted homework assignments;
  • Compliance with schedule mile markers and deadlines;
  • Project PowerPoint presentation;
  • Project report.

Calculators, smart phones, and network access to irrelevant content

You will be using your laptops during class. During class you are not to access anything that is not directly relevant to the work at hand: no visits to social media sites, or unnecessary logins to your email accounts. I can't enforce this as rigorously as might be appropriate, so please comply as best as you are able.

Academic integrity

You must never submit the work of someone else as your own. Always identify your sources.

It is cheating to receive work from another student and then represent it as your own. It is cheating—and a violation of U.S. copyright law—to give (or sell) course material to someone else who intends to redistribute and/or sell it.

Cheating will be penalized harshly: I will award zero credit for any assignment in which a student is found to have cheated. I will also probably reduce your course grade by two letter grades (so that an A becomes a C), though I reserve the right to issue an F for the entire course to any student who is found to have cheated.

All activities in this course, including documentation submitted for petition for an excused absence, are subject to the Academic Integrity rules as described in Article 1, Part 4, Academic Integrity, of the Student Code.