# 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

### Instructor's Guide

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