Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Publication Date



Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Chemistry and Physics, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Steve Robinson

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation


For introductory physics students seeking to form a sophisticated, complete understanding of the foundations of statistical mechanics, the variation theory of learning1 suggests that many representations of the material, in addition to traditional mathematics-based approaches, are necessary. To provide one such alternate representation, an interactive, educational simulation of a 2-dimensional gas was developed using the VPython 3-D animated physics library. This simulation models the gas as a system of many hard spheres that undergo ballistic collisions. It shows the natural evolution of the expected Maxwell-Boltzmann speed distribution from the initially random motions of the particles. The simulation predicts the qualitative behavior of the theoretical system accurately and includes several interactive features for hands-on learning and experimentation.