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# Designing an Electric Field

**Keywords:**Maxwell's Equations, Voltage, Jacob's Ladder, reference point, Small Group

### Highlights of the activity

Students make up their own electric field and write down its vector formulation, sketch it, check that it satisfies Maxwell's equations, and justify the choice of a reference point to measure its potential. Jacob's Ladder is used as a demonstration and students are asked to make sense of the physical behavior they observe.

### Reasons to spend class time on the activity

Goals of the activity:

- Gain confidence with divergence and curl, and understand what they mean physically
- See a relationship between mathematical representation of E-field and graphical

- Understand what charge distribution causes an electric field

- To decide if a mathematically plausible field is physically possible as well.

- Path independence of voltage difference

- How to choose a “good” voltage reference point

- See the connection between calculating potential difference and measuring it with a voltmeter.
- Apply physics knowledge to a real-world example.

- Estimate order of magnitude of a real-world problem

### Reflections

### Instructor's Guide

**Authors:**Darren Tarshis, Dr. Stephanie Chasteen, Dr. Steven Pollock of the University of Colorado - Boulder

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