PICUP Summer 2023 Virtual Workshop

Teaching a Computational Physics Course

An online workshop for faculty interested in teaching computation in a stand-alone Computational Physics course

Important Dates


July 27, 2023: Early-Bird Registration Deadline (price increases from $10 to $15)

July 31, 2023: Final Registration Deadline

Registration is now open--hit that big green button below!

Begin Registration Here

Workshop Dates:

August 1, 2023:  Main Workshop and Small Groups -- 12 PM - 4 PM Central Time

August 2, 2023: Working Groups Help Session -- 12 PM - 1 PM Central Time

August 3, 2023: Participants Showcase & Conclusion -- 12 PM - 2 PM Central Time

Workshop Scope

The purpose of the workshop is to explore the anatomy and purpose of a stand-alone computational course in computational physics beyond introductory physics.

We will discuss the role/purpose of the Computational Physics course in relation to the broader curriculum, and how this course can be leveraged to improve instruction in upper-level courses. The workshop will also include a discussion of the benefits and challenges associated with teaching a Computational Physics course. Participants will also be provided with a brief tour of the PICUP website, and encouraged to get plugged into the larger PICUP community for ongoing support in their pedagogical efforts.

Who Should Attend

All faculty who are interested in teaching -- or potentially teaching -- a Computational Physics course are invited to attend: Whether you have taught this course for years, or are going to be teaching this course for the first time, or are just thinking about the possibility of developing such a course in the future, we encourage you to attend!


Tuesday, August 1: Session 1 (all times Central time zone)

12:00 - 12:15 PM Introduction & Workshop Agenda
12:15 - 1:15 PM Ways to structure the course/curriculum: "Show and Tell" from workshop coordinators
1:15 - 2:00 PM Benefits and Challenges of the Computational Physics course
2:00 - 4:00 PM Small Groups
Homework Each participant will work on developing a computational activity, based on a well-defined learning goal, that they might use in a Computational Physics course. (This activity does not need to be "new"!) Alternatively, participants could choose one aspect of the course that they would like to address and implement, or change, and describe the plan.

Wednesday, August 2: Session 2 - Small Groups (all times Central time zone)

12:00 - 12:10 PM Each participant will give a brief description of one computational activity that their students would do 
12:10 - 1:00 PM Working Groups Help Session: Meeting with Group Leader
Homework Participants should plan to give a brief presentation on their plan at the Thursday "Showcase" session.

Thursday, August 3: Session 3 (all times Central time zone)

12:00 - 1:45 PM Participants Showcase - 

The showcase provides an opportunity for participants to briefly report on the computational activity, assignment, or curricular plan under development for the upcoming academic term. The Thursday session will be primarily dedicated to the showcase; each participant should prepare a slide or two for a 3-5 minute presentation.

1:45 - 2:00 PM Conclusion and Post-Workshop Support



This series of videos shows how to make use of some basic spreadsheet functionality to build computational models, and includes a review of the simple Euler Method for solving a first order differential equation in the context of solving Newton's 2nd Law. The series culminates with an implementation of a model of a Falling Sphere without air resistance. Any spreadsheet program can be used to follow along, and work through the content in these videos.

Building a Control Panel - Excel/LibreOffice

Building a Control Panel - Google Sheets

Basic Iterative Calculations and Building a Kinematic Problem Solver - Excel/LibreOffice

Basic Iterative Calculations and Building a Kinematic Problem Solver - Google Sheets

Review of Simple Euler Method

Falling Sphere without Air Resistance


Intro to VPython - Part 1

Intro to VPython - Part 2

Intro to VPython - Part 3

Intro to VPython - Part 4


Workshop Coordinators

Kelly Roos, Bradley University (contact: rooster@bradley.edu)

Larry Engelhardt, Francis Marion University

Todd Zimmerman, University of Wisconsin - Stout

Jay Wang, Department of Physics, University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth

Gillian Ryan, Carnegie Mellon University

Walter Freeman, Syracuse University

Danny Caballero, Michigan State University

Andrew Morrison, Joliet Junior College