Physics 120B (previously 121)

UCSD Department of Physics

C. Fred Driscoll, Professor


Physics 120B is a projects-based course; students conceive, design, and build a microprocessor-based gizmo of their choice, with support from faculty and staff. The only constraints imposed are that the gizmo should measure something in the real world, process this information, and control something in the real world.


For the first half of the quarter, students will perform hands-on labs to learn about real-time microprocessors, of the kind found in everything from microwave ovens to laboratory data acquisition and control devices. The second half of the course is devoted to development of projects, in teams of 2 or 3.


Prerequisites: Some background in electronics can be helpful; but expertise is not required. Given the team nature of the projects, some students emphasize hardware, some build electronics, some enjoy the challenges of programming. The main prerequisite is a willingness to "go for it."

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"Mailbox for Y2K: a Handicap mail viewer and retrieval system," by Heidi Cox and Tom Morris (Fall 1998). A video camera views the contents, a robot arm selects non-junk mail, and a robot cart (driven by LegoMan) makes house-calls.





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"The Kaiser: Target Acquisition and Rangefinding Artillery," by Christian Howard and Kevin Rigg (Award, Fall 1998). Two infra-red detectors triangulate on a target to determine position and range, a trajectory is calculated, and the air-powered Kaiser "popcorn" launcher is adjusted in angle and puff strength.



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"GI Bob: An obstacle-evading search and destroy tank in basic training," by Mike Lewis, Jose Otero and Martin Quinn (Fall 1998). With sophisticated detectors, all-terrain tractor mobility, several micro-processors and lots of "glitches," it had better stay in boot-camp.




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Peter Weintraub and Reg Armistead, "Forward Area Recon & Termination System" (no Acronyms, please). An overhead digital camera locates a mobile target on the floor, aims a photon cannon (a.k.a. laser pointer), and terminates something. (Award, Spring 2000)





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Close-up of turret and photon cannons.








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"Tone-Controlled Christmas Display," by Nirmala Pouse and Anh Tran (Fall 1998). ET phone home and adjust the tree lights, please.





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"The Christmas Present Shaker," by Michael F. Martin and Andrew Heninger (Spring 2000). Sure, a microprocessor can rotate the box to determine the angle(s) at which the object tumbles, and thereby determine the object's shape; but wouldn't it be easier to just peek when Santa's not around?




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"Disco Inferno" by Julie Correa and Paul Petrick (Fall 1996). Music that just "hasta" drive lights, disco balls, and roller-skates.








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Michael Judge found fame "Balancing the Broomstick" before
finding fortune with "Beavis and Butthead"


Pictures and project write-ups available for review in WLH 2120.