An innovative, laboratory based undergraduate level course on dynamical systems
Abstract: Over the last few decades there has been great interest in the area of dynamical systems, especially those involving nonlinearities. While there are many graduate-level courses in nonlinear dynamics, the elegant geometrical methods and visualization techniques of nonlinear dynamics have not yet been incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum. Traditionally, science and engineering students take differential equations courses that focus on analytical solutions. Numerical methods, if discussed at all, take a secondary role. Students starting graduate school or in the workplace may, however, encounter systems that are too complicated to solve analytically. To address this deficiency, an interdisciplinary, laboratory-based undergraduate level course on nonlinear dynamical systems has been developed at Cal Poly. The novel features of the course are the laboratory component, its interdisciplinary nature and the emphasis on geometrical methods and data visualization techniques. Most of the laboratory experiments can be economically implemented using equipment available in many introductory physics microcomputer-based laboratories. The laboratory component involves a capstone project, individually chosen by the students and performed under minimal supervision over the last three weeks of the term. Implementation of this course, description of the experiments and sample projects will be presented.