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AP Physics C Syllabus 2011-2012

Dr. Gaw


Fundamentals of Physics by David Halliday, Robert Resnick and Jearl Walker, John Wiley & Sons, 8th edition, 2008.


Unit Schedule

Listed below is the unit schedule for the two semesters of AP Physics C.   The first semester covers Newtonian mechanics (Units 1-5 and chapters 2-13, and 15 of the text) and the second semester covers Electricity and Magnetism (E&M) (Units 6-9 and chapters 21 – 32 of the text).  This class is calculus based and is equivalent to the typical calculus based college level first year physics course taken by science and engineering majors.  Students are strongly encouraged to take the AP Physics C Mechanics exam in May.  In class review for the mechanics exam begins in mid-April.  Students may also take the AP Physics C E&M exam – review for this exam is generally done outside of class.


Please note that the number of class periods indicated with each unit is approximate and may change based on the characteristics of the class.  We will, however, finish Newtonian mechanics in the first semester and tackle E&M in the second semester.  Always check the detailed unit by unit schedule published on the web.


Unit 1

Time: 7 class periods

Reading: Chapters 2-4 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic:   Kinematics in 1 D; Vectors; Kinematics in 2 and 3 D

  1. Calculus
  2. Kinematics review
  3. Vector and scalar properties; scalar and cross products
  4. Projectiles
  5. Uniform circular motion
  6. Relative motion


  1. Measurement and Uncertainty Lab

Students learn to properly propagate uncertainty through out an experiment.

  1. Diluting Gravity

Using a raised air track and photogates, students determine the value of g.


Unit 2

Time: 9 class periods

Reading: Chapters 5-6 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic: Newton’s Laws

  1. Force and mass
  2. Newton’s Second and Third Laws
  3. Friction and drag force
  4. Uniform circular motion


  1. Coffee Filters

Students investigate air resistance and terminal velocity with coffee filters.  Students either use stopwatches or video cameras to capture time data.

  1. Whirligig

Circular motion in a horizontal plane is investigated by whirling a rubber stopper. 


Unit 3

Time: 10 class periods

Reading: Chapters 7-9 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic: Work, Energy, Momentum and their Conservation Laws

  1. Work, kinetic, and potential energy
  2. Constant and variable forces
  3. Work and conservative and non-conservative forces
  4. Conservation of energy
  5. Center of mass and Newton’s Second Law
  6. Impulse and linear momentum
  7. Conservation of linear momentum in 1 and 2 D collisions


  1. The Turning Point Lab

Conservation of energy is used to determine minimum distance between a pendulum bob’s pivot point and stopping peg such that the pendulum’s string remains taut.

  1. Falling Chain

Students determine the force that a falling chain has on a table as a function of distance that the chain has fallen.  Analysis requires use of calculus and interpretation of Force versus time graphs.

  1. 2D Collisions

Using an air table, students investigate 2D collisions and conservation of momentum.


Unit 4

Time: 10 class periods

Reading: Chapters 10-12 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic: Rotational Kinematics, Rotational Dynamics, and Equilibrium

  1. Connection between linear and rotational kinematics
  2. Rotational inertia
  3. Torque
  4. Newton’s Second Law in rotational and angular terms
  5. Rolling
  6. Angular momentum and its conservation
  7. Static equilibrium


  1. Moment of Inertia

Students determine the moment of inertia of wheels of various sizes.

  1. Roller Derby with Different Types of Cylinders and Spheres

Students investigate how the type of cylinder or sphere impacts the acceleration experienced by the shape as it rolls down an incline.

  1. Torque and Static Equilibrium

Students examine static equilibrium for an extended object in multiple configurations.


Unit 5

Time: 8 class periods

Reading: Chapters 13 and 15 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic: Gravitation and Oscillation

-        Universal Law of Gravitation

-        Superposition

-        Gravity as a non-constant force

-        Kepler’s Laws

-        Satellites

-        Simple harmonic oscillator

-        Physical pendulums

-        Resonance


  1. Physical Pendulum

Students explore the nature of a physical pendulum using multiple pivot origins.

  1. Harmonic Motion

Students obtain the spring force constant for a given spring using two methods.



Unit 6

Time: 10 class periods

Reading: Chapters 21-25 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic:   Electric Charge, Electric Fields, Gauss’ Law, and Electric Potentials

-        Charge

-        Coulomb’s Law

-        Electric field

-        Electric field due to various charge distributions

-        Flux

-        Gauss’ Law

-        Applying Gauss’ Law to various charge distributions

-        Electric Potential

-        Equipotential surfaces

-        Potential due to various charge distributions


Unit 7

Time: 8 class periods

Topic: Capacitance, Current, Resistance and DC Circuits

Reading: Chapters 25-27 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

  1. Capacitance and calculating capacitance for capacitors of different shapes
  2. Capacitors in parallel and series
  3. Dielectrics
  4. Electric Current
  5. Resistance and Resistivity
  6. Resistors in parallel and series
  7. Ohm’s Law
  8. Work, Energy, and EMF
  9. Kirchhoff’s Rules
  10. RC Circuits


  1. Capacitance Properties Lab

Students determine the relationships between: 1) size of plates and charge capacity; 2) plate separation and charge capacity.

  1. Ohm’s Law Lab

Students perform a detailed examination of Ohm’s Law paying careful attention to the internal resistance of the ammeter and voltmeter.

  1. Electrical Power and Batteries

Students learn to model the decrease in power (as measured by output voltage) of a battery with a large load.

  1. RC Circuit Lab

Students investigate the time dependent behavior of an RC circuit.


Unit 8

Time: 9 class periods

Reading: Chapters 28-30 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic: Magnetic Fields and Magnetic Fields Due to Current

  1. Magnetic fields
  2. Hall Effect
  3. Circulating charge
  4. Magnetic field due to a current
  5. Biot-Savart Law and Ampere’s Law
  6. Solenoids and toroids
  7. Faraday’s Law of Induction
  8. Lenz’s Law
  9. Inductors
  10. Inductance
  11. RL circuits


  1. Current and Field Strength

Students investigate relationship between the current in a wire and the strength of the associated magnetic field.

  1. Magnetic Field of a Slinky

Students perform a detailed examination of the factors that impact the magnetic field inside a solenoid (a metal slinky).

  1. Current Induction Lab

Students investigate Lenz’s Law and the generation of current.

Unit 9

Time: 4 class periods

Reading: Chapters 31-32 of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker

Topic: Alternating Current and Maxwell’s Equations

  1. LC and RLC circuits
  2. Alternating current
  3. Transformers
  4. Electrical generators and motors plus other common devices
  5. Maxwell’s equations
  6. Earth’s magnetic field
  7. Magnets


  1. Magnetic Field of the Earth Lab

Students measure the magnitude and inclination angle of the magnetic field of the earth.

  1. RC, RL, and RLC Circuits Lab

Students use an oscilloscope to examine RC, RL, and RLC circuits.

  1. Electromagnets and Transformers Lab

Students create a series of electromagnets and investigate their properties and compare them to transformers that they also build.


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