RC Circuits Computational Laboratory Exercise

Faculty Commons material developed by Kevin Adkins - Published August 16, 2020

This exercise is an alternative to a traditional laboratory experiment where students collect and then analyze data. Instead, that lab would be replaced with a computational laboratory exercise where the students work a computational problem covering the same topic as the traditional lab. In our lab, the students have 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete the exercise. This implementation allows professors to integrate computation into the first year physics course without sacrificing lecture time. This particular exercise is the complete, full lab that we present to our first semester physics students. It mixes theory with a computational exercise to investigate an RC circuit with Kirchhoff's Rules and then solve the resulting differential equation using Euler's Method. The students will create plots of the numerical versus exact voltage and current and think about why they aren't exactly the same. Learning Objective: To investigate charging and discharging an RC circuit by applying a numerical solution to the differential equation.

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