The study of senior physics begins in grade 10, by covering the grade 11 unit on quantum mechanics. Covering quantum mechanics in grade 10 enables the grade 11 physics curriculum to be further enriched and introduce some of the simpler AP physics concepts.
The TOPS program recognizes that not all students would enjoy or be interested in taking the grade 12 AP Physics course offered at the school the following year. For these students, there is a standard TOPS enriched grade 12 Physics course.
This physics course covers much of the same material as the AP Physics course, with the exception of astrophysics and space science. Students study dynamics, forces and work, electromagnetism, and optics as part of their curriculum, but use less calculus in their analysis. Furthermore, students conduct classic grade 12 physics experiments to reinforce their classroom learning through physical investigations of the world.
A highlight of this course is the construction of Rube Goldberg machines, which serve as a culmination of the knowledge learned during the course as it is applied to real-world design and construction. Students bring together their studies in forces, trajectories, and other physics concepts to create an elaborate multi-step chain reaction.