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Science SPORE Prize
November 2011

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The Open Source Physics Project is supported by NSF DUE-0442581.


Curriculum Overview

Curriculum Overview

The Wigner function curricular package's splash screen showing the button navigation to the material in the package.

The Open Source Physics project, with its wide variety of packages, libraries, programs, and files, is a large body of work useful for the study of computational physics. Many instructors, however, do not teach (or do research in) computational physics. For these instructors we have made the various physical models available in an easily accessible, modifiable, and distributable form for teaching of physics. For convenience, OSP programs are almost always packaged in java archive (jar) files. These jar files contain compiled code and resources such curricular materials, images, and data files. Double clicking on a jar file executes the program if Java is installed.

On this site you will find three different types of material suitable for teaching introductory to advanced physics: Program Archives, Package Archives, and Worksheets.

Physlet Books

Image of Physlet book coversThe second edition to Physlet Physics, and Physlet Quantum Physics represents a major change in how the Physlet-based interactive materials are delivered to teachers and students alike. Instead of accessing materials off of the CD that came with the first edition, now users simply access the Physlet Physics and the Physlet Quantum Physics web sites. This new partnership with ComPADRE also allows us to update materials and therefore provide the best materials to teachers and students. Housing the material on ComPADRE also lowers the barrier for adoption, since anyone can adopt these materials.

Single-Program Archives

A Java application is a program that runs just like any other installed program. Running an OSP program as a Java application is the simplest most reliable way to run programs. The jar file containing the Java program is downloaded and placed in a directory on a local computer. Users are then able to double-click on the jar file to execute the main program within the jar. These Java applications can also be run in applet mode when embedded into an html page and run within a browser or as a Java Web Start application.

Package Archives

For complete units of instruction on a given topic, we use packages for distribution. We use the program Launcher to organize and distribute collections of ready-to-use programs, documentation, and curricular material in a single easily modifiable package. The Launcher and LaunchBuilder programs developed by Doug Brown at Cabrillo College are used to launch (execute) other Java programs and build extensive curricular packages.


Curricular worksheets for use with OSP simulations are available for most Programs and Packages. For Single-Program Archives, worksheets consist of a PDF document that describe the program, describes how to use the program and contains short tutorial exercises and explorations for use with the program. For Package Archives, worksheets consist of a PDF document that detail the physics (a brief tutorial) and contain an extensive set of exercises for use with the program. These tutorials and exercises are already distributed in the Package Archives, but providing a PDF allows for flexibility in instruction.

OSP Examples

Ready-to-run OSP Packages are available in the ComPADRE OSP Collection. For example see:

The OSP Network:
Open Source Physics - Tracker - EJS Modeling
Physlet Physics
Physlet Quantum Physics