Term Project - Ideas, Advice, and Actual Projects
This is a collection of information designed to help you come up with a
workable term project topic. Also see the Term Project
Answers from Fall 2012 class to the question of, “Do you have any
advice to next year’s students when picking out a term project topic?”
- Be reasonable about what you can accomplish/willing to adjust as you
work on it.
- Choose a project that covers a wide variety of topics from the labs and
one you know you can finish before the presentations.
- Choose something that has steps. Choose a project that you can build off
of if you have time, but could still work if you run into problems.
- Do something Mathematica-intensive, not math-intensive. It will be a lot
- Do something related to what you are learning in other classes. it helps
- Do something that is interesting to you so the time spent doing it is
- Do something you are familiar with because the chances are that you do
not know how to do it in mathematic.
- Do what you love. This project should be something you get excited
about. I loved mine so much that I am still playing with and modifying it.
- Don't feel threatened by the vagueness of the assignment. Just do it.
- Don't worry too much about getting in enough hours working on it. Things
can take a lot longer than you would expect when you want it to look good.
- Explore a topic being discussed in another class, so you already have
the physics and math resources for help. Or explore a mathematica function
you enjoy. (Loops, Plot3D, etc.)
- Find something that you can explain and talk about
- I would suggest going to the Wolfram demonstrations page (as long as you
can keep your eyes off the solution code) for ideas.
- It will be harder/more complicated than you are expecting
- Iit will most likely be harder than you think it will be
- Just assume that whatever you plan won't work out exactly how you
- Just choose something that is interesting to you
- Keep in mind what you think you can do before picking something.
- Make it fun, and don't stress too much. Pick something that interests
you or that you've learned recently in your current physics classes.
- Make it fun. Base it on something else you are learning about, maybe
another physics class. Start thinking about it early.
- Pick a project on a topic that you understand mostly.
- Pick out something that fascinates you, and that you're sincerely
- Pick something hard, that way you can always make it easier as you go
- Pick something that you find interesting.
- Pick something that you're interested in and to make sure you have
enough time for it.
- Pick something you don't think you can do, then find a way to do it.
- Start extremely small. Things get very complicated very quickly, so you
should start with a basic problem that you would like to solve.
- Start thinking about broad topic ideas at the beginning of the class and
then make it more specific when the project time comes.
- Start thinking about ideas at the very start of the semester. As
you go through the labs, think of interesting things in Mathematica that you
would like to learn more about.
Actual Projects Done (Fall 2013) (these are given not so that
you choose any of these topics, but so that you get a sense of the size/scope of
Directly related to Physics topics
- A virtual piano, which
played sounds as the user clicked on different keys. The sounds could be
chosen from (a) sine waves, (b) sine waves with higher harmonics built up to
sound more piano-like, or (c) actual recorded notes from a real piano
- Animating drumhead vibrations
- Animation of waves going
through a double-slit and producing an inteference pattern
- Calculating planetary
info such as the Roche Limit and Hill radius
- Density plots of electron orbitals (wavefunction squared), through n = 5
- Depicting the potential
energy “well” as planets move around the solar system, without the sun.
- Estimating electron
affinity by modeling shielding effects of inner electrons
- Interactions between two
charged particles: trajectories and time dependence of electric fields
- Modeling energies of an ionized hydrogen molecule: potential, rotational, and vibrational
- Motion of a charged
object in a magnetic field - calculating initial conditions needed to strike
- Motion of a group of
charged particles in response to the electric field produced by the
- Plotting harmonics
(Fourier transform) vs. time as volume of a saxophone increases
- Plotting Hohmann transfer orbits
- Plotting the
wavefunction of a particle in a square well (infinite and finite)
- Plotting trajectories of
charged particles in user-specified B-fields
- Ray tracing for single
lenses: both positive and negative focal lengths, both positive and negative
object distances, and both positive and negative (real/virtual) image
- Recording and analzying
(Fourier transform) pitches sung or played into a microphone
- Simulation of 2D
inelastic collisions; relativistic vs. nonrelativistic momentum
- Simulation of rocks
being dropped into a "ripple tank" and forming interfering circular waves
- Visualizing what the QM
wave function means by depicting electrons popping in and out of existence
inside the probability cloud, for a lithium atom
Not very closely related to Physics, but which I still approved
- Creating a Clue-like game, where the computer gives
answers to your guesses about "Who-done-it"
- Creating a Mastermind-like game, where the computer
gives responses to your guess about which number it's thinking of
- Cryptography: encoding and decoding messages with two
ciphers (Affine and RSA)
- Explorations in efficiency: solving problems from
Some other possible ideas for future projects
(from Dr. Colton & the Fall 2012 TAs)
- A re-creation of the Rutherford experiment, where a scatter plot
animation could show alpha particle impacts as a function of theta and alpha
- Collision simulator with graphics that can take before velocities and
masses of two objects, and can also have a variable elasticity to the
- Do something cool with integrated data sources
- Figure out how mp3 sound compression works and write your own mp3 (or
mp3-like) algorithm to compress and play back sounds.
- Fit blackbody radiation curves to Plank spectrum
- Prepare an animation to demonstrate a concept for a Wikipedia article
- Solve and animate a projectile problem, possibly creating a “cannon
game”. Incorporate air resistance with variable drag coefficients, if time
- Time-dependent vibrations of strings, for arbitrary initial conditions
(as done in Durfee’s 123 book: take Fourier transform of initial shape, do
time evolution of each Fourier component separately, then add the
time-dependent results back together)
- Yo-yo simulator that would show a falling yo-yo that would take into
account mass, axle radius, moment of inertia, etc. and calculate the total
acceleration. Perhaps even calculate the number of rotations, final
velocity, fall time, etc. If time, it could also allow for different shapes
of yo-yos (square, triangle, hoop)