In Grade 12, students are offered a unique opportunity: AP Physics C. The content covered in this course is usually only taught in university. This course is open to the entire school, but is composed largely of TOPS students.
Many TOPS students are considering university study in the physical sciences or engineering area. The adjustment from high school life to the rigours of such programs for many students can be apocalyptic. AP Physics C, as it is taught in the TOPS program, allows a student the opportunity for advanced preparation both in the curriculum and in the areas of time and stress management. Even able students feel the stress of the demanding material and experiments where student design is required. AP Physics C is the natural extension of the grade 11 TOPS Physics class taught the previous spring. This introductory class covers some of the simpler AP concepts permitting greater enrichment in the AP course.
This course is dense with calculus and even extends the calculus learned the previous year. Here calculus and other mathematics are used to solve problems and generate models of physical processes. The student of AP Physics C can expect to use 1st and 2nd differential equations, matrix algebra, complex numbers and write computer programs related to simulation and device management.
Furthermore, the teacher, Prime Minister Award winning Mr. van Bemmel includes an introduction to celestial mechanics, space science (emphasis on program management) and astrophysics (stellar processes, variables stars and cosmology). Students get to make scale models of 3D comet orbits, analyze variable stars and personally assess how they might act when competing agendas press on decisions in the management of a program.
The laboratory aspect is held daily after school where students in groups of 4 or 5 perform 5 experiments. These require extensive student design, error managements and analysis culminating in the production of a professional style ‘paper’.
While all of the above appears intense, the typical AP Physics student enjoys a great deal of fellowship with their colleagues and some fun events. In the recent past students have enjoyed mocking their teacher at Halloween by dressing as he does to be as they say ‘scary’ or the End of year pizza party. The course ends with a graduation ceremony and diplomas written Latin (or at least Mr. van Bemmel’s version of it!)