Dr. Ruth Chabay and Dr. Bruce Sherwood: Matter & Interactions:

A curriculum for the introductory calculus-based course taken by beginning university science and engineering students, takes a contemporary perspective on introductory-level physics.

Picture of Matter & Interactions book

Matter & Interactions book


This approach includes a serious introduction to computational modeling, in which students write short Python programs that generate navigable real-time 3D animations of physical systems as a side effect of their physics calculations, as well as producing 2D graphs in synchrony with the animations. This is made possible in part by VPython, a Python module that supports vector algebra and real-time 3D graphics. 

Although most of the students have no prior programming experience, they learn simple computational ideas at the same time they learn physics, though a structured set of tasks. We will demonstrate VPython and show examples of student use of this tool in mechanics and electromagnetism.

We will also show more complex VPython programs that we have developed for instructors and students to use, which vivify physics concepts through 3D simulations. We will discuss ongoing efforts to assess and improve our teaching of computational modeling.


Image may contain: Glasses, Chin, Forehead.Bruce Sherwood’s Ph.D is in experimental particle physics from the  University of Chicago; his undergraduate degree was in engineering science from Purdue University, after which he studied physics for one year on a Fulbright at the  University of Padua, Italy.

He is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Physics at the University of North Texas. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of  Physics at North Carolina State University.

He has also taught at Caltech, the  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Carnegie Mellon University.  He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, of the American Association of Physics Tecahers, and of the American  Association for the Advancement of Science. 

He is currently the lead developer of the 3D programming environment VPython.

Image may contain: Glasses, Face, Hair, Eyewear, Glasses.Ruth Chabay earned a Ph.D in physical chemistry from the University of  Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; her undergraduate degree was in chemistry  from the University of Chicago.

She is Professor of Physics and Chemistry at the University of North Texas.

She is Professor Emerita in the Department  of Physics at North Carolina State University and was Weston Visiting  Professor, Department of Science Teaching, at the Weizmann Institute of  Science in Rehovot, Israel.

She has also taught at the University of Illinois at  Urbana-Champaign and Carnegie Mellon University. She is a Fellow of the  American Physical Society and of the American Association of Physics Teachers. 

Published Nov. 29, 2019 4:32 PM - Last modified Dec. 6, 2019 10:53 AM