Physics 206 — Mechanics

Texas A&M University, Fall 2020

All University Physics Sections

Dept of Physics & Astronomy » PHYS 206 common webpage

COVID-19 safety and precautions

To promote public safety and protect students, faculty, and staff during the coronavirus pandemic, Texas A&M University has adopted policies and practices for the Fall 2020 academic term to limit virus transmission. Students must observe the following practices while participating in face-to-face courses and course-related activities (office hours, help sessions, transitioning to and between classes, study spaces, academic services, etc.):

  • Self-monitoring: Students should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for self-monitoring. Students who have a fever or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 should participate in class remotely and should not participate in face-to-face instruction.
  • Face Coverings: Face coverings (cloth face covering, surgical mask, etc.) must be properly worn (see the infographic to the right) in all non-private spaces including classrooms, teaching laboratories, common spaces such as lobbies and hallways, public study spaces, libraries, academic resource and support offices, and outdoor spaces where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to reliably maintain. Description of face coverings and additional guidance are provided in the Face Covering policy and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) available on the Provost website. If a student refuses to wear a face covering, the instructor will ask the student to leave and join the class remotely. If the student refuses to leave, they will be reported to the Student Conduct Office for sanctions, the in-class lecture will be canceled, and an asynchronous (recorded) lecture will be delivered instead.
  • Physical Distancing: Physical distancing must be maintained between students, instructors, and others in course and course-related activities. There will be a red line in front of the first row of seats separating the student and instructor spaces; do not cross that line and avoid approaching the podium before or after class, instead discussing any items with your instructor online through Zoom office hours.
  • Classroom Ingress/Egress: Students must follow marked pathways for entering and exiting classrooms and other teaching spaces. Leave classrooms promptly after course activities have concluded. Do not congregate in hallways and maintain 6-foot physical distancing when waiting to enter classrooms and other instructional spaces.
  • Taking your seat: To maintain physical distancing and avoid students crawling over other each other, the central seats available for that class should be filled first, then the next available one towards the side walkway, then the next and so on until the row is filled. When leaving, the outer seats should be vacated first, then the next seat in toward the centre, and so forth.

Illustration of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Credit: The CDC | Alissa Eckert, MSMI; Dan Higgins, MAMS.
How to wear a non-medical fabric mask safely
Click here to see the above infographic from the World Health Organization in its original size.

Important dates

Add/drop deadline 5:00 pmFri Aug 28
Exam I 8:30 pmThu Sep 17
Exam II 8:30 pmThu Oct 15
Q-drop deadline 5:00 pmTue Nov 10
Comprehensive 6:00 pmFri Nov 20

Course Core Objectives

At the end of the semester a student is expected to master the following core objectives:

  • Critical Thinking: the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication.
  • Communication: to include effective development and interpretation and expression of ideas through written, oral, and visual communication
  • Empirical and Quantitative Skills: to include the manipulation and analysis of numerical data or observable facts resulting in informed conclusions
  • Teamwork: to include the ability to consider different points of view and to work effectively with others to support a shared purpose or goal

Course overview

Physics 206, Newtonian Mechanics for Engineering and Science, is the first semester of a two-semester sequence in introductory physics, intended to introduce students to the basic principles of Newtonian mechanics and harmonic motion. We will cover topics in mechanics, Newton's Laws, the concepts of energy and work, conservation of energy and momentum, rotational motion, gravity, harmonic motion and waves. This corresponds to chapters 1–12 and 14 of Mosca and Tipler's Physics for Scientists and Engineers. The course is taught with pre-lectures, lectures, recitations and in-class particpation. The pre-lectures present the core concepts prior to class and allows more time for problem-solving strategies in class as compared to traditional lectures. The recitation is meant to practice problem-solving and to sharpen your reasoning about physics in a smaller class-size setting than the main lecture (which will have close to 150 students in it). The material is presented at a level that requires signficant algebra and trigonometry, as well as some basic calculus.

Upon successfully completing this course, you will have come to understand the basic principles governing the motion of objects, learned to think more critically/scientifically, and developed the skills needed to attack difficult problems. These are all skills that will serve you strongly in your future courses and careers, even if you never again consider a block sliding down an incline.

Course Schedule

The weekly class schedule gives an outline of the course, but is by no means definitive; check with your professor for a more complete schedule of your specific sections. Your weekly homework, pre-lecture and bridge assignment due dates are listed on Sapling's calendar and may be adjusted as the semester progresses to accomodate the pace of the class; you should refer back to that calendar often. Information about the format of the recitations as well as problem sets used by your recitation leader may be found here.


[ click to expand the list of this semester's instructors]

Zoom information

All information/links for the online component of the course (lectures, recordings of lectures, recitations, exams) may be found here: zoom-info-2020C.php. You will need to authenticate with your TAMU NetID to access any Zoom meetings or videos.


Pre-lectures and Bridge assignments

Course Components

Learning objectives
Sapling Learning
Math preparation

Course Evaluation

Exams 80%

There are 2 common midterms on the evenings of Thu Sep 17, and Thu Oct 15.. In addition, we will be having a common comprehensive exam covering all of the material in the course on the Fri before classes end, Nov 20. All exams will be online, begin at 8:30 pm, and are multiple choice. Exams are graded in terms of learning objectives. The complete list of learning objectives that a student is expected to master at the end of the semester is posted at In the end, the final exam grade will be based on the fraction of learning objectives achieved. Any LO with a passing grade in the comprehensive exam will trump the results for that LO from the 2 midterms. However, if a LO is not passed in the comprehensive exam, it will count just like other midterms in the cumulative passing criteria.

Online homework 5%

Submitted and graded using Sapling Learning

Recitations 5%

The grade for recitations is based on participation. See this page for more information. We strongly suggest you be an active learner and actively participate in the discussions of these smaller class-sized recitations.

Pre-lectures and Bridge assignments 5%

In Sapling Learning, there are pre-lecture videos to introduce concepts followed by Bridge assignment questions to assess how well you grasped the core physics concepts.

i>clickers 5%

A personal response system used for in-class participation and/or quizzes.

Resources available to you

Course strategies: A link to (Dr. Melconian's) advice you may find useful …?
Office hours: Hopefully all of you feel comfortable taking advantage of your professor's office hours if you have any questions.
Supplemental Instruction: The Academic Success Center at TAMU will be providing free weekly supplemental instruction led by a student who recently completed (and did well in!) PHYS 206. Quoting a pamphlet about this program: SI is a program in place to help students succeed in historically difficult courses (no, this isn't an "easy A" course). It has been proven that students who regularly attend SI sessions score 1/2 to a full letter grade better in the course.
Specific information about the SI program this semester:

  • Nathaniel Honl ()
    • Zoom meeting ID: 932 0942 2514, with password: PHYS2020
    • Session times: Wed 7:30–9:00 pm and Sun 2:00–3:30 pm
    • See the website for the latest information and scheduling updates (you need to be logged on to TAMU google to be able to access it, otherwise it will say give a 404 error message saying it was not found on the server):
Recitations: Your teaching assistant (TA) should be an invaluable resource for you! Go to recitations armed with questions (just like you should come to the lectures!) and get the TA to help clear up any misconceptions or difficulties you may have. Another person explaining another way (and also who was more recently in your shoes) may resonate better with you; this is, after all, the whole point of the recitations.

Mechanics Scholars Competition

Every semester there is a challenge exam given at the end of the term which is open to all students in all sections of Physics 206. The exam covers material from the first three exams: Chapters 1–10, 12 of Mosca and Tipler's Physics for Scientists and Engineers, or equivalently Chapters I–XVII of Bassichis' Don't Panic. The exam is typically held just before (or during) Reading Days, right before finals.

The top three winners will be presented with the Dr. Phyllis Toback Award, given a textbook for PHYS 207, the sequel to PHYS 206 (depending on which flavour they plan to take, the winners may choose between the 2nd volume of Bassichis' Don't Panic and the 2nd volume of Mosca & Tipler's Physics for Scientists and Engineers), and a monetary award for their accomplishment. As an added incentive, all students who perform well on the challenge exam will be named a MacMillan Mechanics Scholar (which includes a certificate suitable for framing), and will be invited to a catered luncheon in their honour. In addition to lunch, we will have presentations by faculty members regarding potential careers for people with high levels of physics problem-solving skills.

More information will be posted here as we near the end of the semester.

Further information

Math readiness: link to some simple quizzes to test how prepared you are in math.
Formula sheets: link to the formula sheets that will be provided to you for each midterm and the comprehensive exam.
Previous exams: link to the midterms and finals from PHYS 206 last year (with answer keys). Note that this course adopts a common midterm exam policy: all sections of PHYS 206 will write the same midterms at the same time; your professor is only one of a number of faculty that will be contributing problems to the midterms.
Academic calendar: link to the Registrar's academic calendar. Includes important dates, holidays and deadlines. Note that all sections of PHYS 206 write a comprehensive exam the evening of Fri Nov 20 (7:30–10:30 pm). Therefore we will not be having a final exam during finals week.
eCampus: Texas A&M's centralized learning management system, powered by Blackboard Learn.

Academic Integrity Statement and Policy

"An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do."

"Texas A&M University students are responsible for authenticating all work submitted to an instructor. If asked, students must be able to produce proof that the item submitted is indeed the work of that student. Students must keep appropriate records at all times. The inability to authenticate one's work, should the instructor request it, may be sufficient grounds to initiate an academic misconduct case" (Section, Student Rule 20).

You can learn more about the Aggie Honor System Office Rules and Procedures, academic integrity, and your rights and responsibilities at

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy Statement

Texas A&M University is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. If you experience barriers to your education due to a disability or think you may have a disability, please contact Disability Resources in the Student Services Building or at (979) 845-1637 or visit Disabilities may include, but are not limited to attentional, learning, mental health, sensory, physical, or chronic health conditions. All students are encouraged to discuss their disability related needs with Disability Resources and their instructors as soon as possible.

Title IX and Statement on Limits to Confidentiality

Texas A&M University is committed to fostering a learning environment that is safe and productive for all. University policies and federal and state laws prohibit gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

With the exception of some medical and mental health providers, all university employees (including full and part-time faculty, staff, paid graduate assistants, student workers, etc.) are Mandatory Reporters and must report to the Title IX Office if the employee experiences, observes, or becomes aware of an incident that meets the following conditions (see University Rule 08.01.01.M1):

Mandatory Reporters must file a report regardless of how the information comes to their attention – including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Although Mandatory Reporters must file a report, in most instances, you will be able to control how the report is handled, including whether or not to pursue a formal investigation. The University's goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and to ensure access to the resources you need.

Students wishing to discuss concerns in a confidential setting are encouraged to make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Students can learn more about filing a report, accessing supportive resources, and navigating the Title IX investigation and resolution process on the University's Title IX webpage.

Statement on Mental Health and Wellness

Texas A&M University recognizes that mental health and wellness are critical factors that influence a student's academic success and overall wellbeing. Students are encouraged to engage in proper self-care by utilizing the resources and services available from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). Students who need someone to talk to can call the TAMU Helpline (979-845-2700) from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. 24-hour emergency help is also available through the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255) or at