AP® Physics C Mechanics
AP® Physics C is a national calculus-based physics course designed to prepare students
for the AP® Physics C Exam. This course is equivalent to a first year introductory
college physics course for pre-engineering students. This course requires and employs a
basic understanding of calculus.
We will use Physics for Scientists and Engineers. 5th ed. by Raymond A. Serway and
Robert J. Beichner.
Grading and Evaluation
Your quarter grade will be based on the following scale:
Your semester grade will be based on the following scale:
First Quarter: 40%
Second Quarter: 40%
Semester Exam: 20%
Laboratory experiments are an important part of any physics course. A minimum of 20%
of class time will be used for labs. Students will work in small groups to conduct hands-
on experiments, but each student will be required to keep their own lab notebook. All lab
reports must be saved and kept in a lab notebook.
Labs are an important part of inquiry-based learning. Many labs will require the students
to formulate and design their own experiment in order to test their hypothesis for the
problem in question. Students will collect data by making observations and taking
measurements. Finally, students will perform necessary calculations and form
conclusions about their experiment.
A list of the labs that will be done throughout this course is listed at the end.
Lecture and Recitation
Aside from labs, class time will be devoted to lecture and recitation where students are
actively involved in problem solving. Throughout the course, students will be asked to
work out problems on the board. This may be done individually or sometimes in pairs
where the students have to work together. Students at the board are responsible for
explaining and teaching the class the steps they took to solve the problems. Explaining
how to do problems to others is a good way to develop the skills necessary to solve
Outline of Topics
Topic: Units and Measurements
a. Units and dimensional analysis
a. Motion in one dimension
b. Motion in two dimensions
Topic: Newton’s Laws of Motion
a. Static equilibrium
Topic: Work, Energy, and Power
a. Work and work-energy theorem
b. Kinetic and potential energy
c. Conservation of energy
Topic: Linear Momentum
a. Momentum and impulse
b. Conservation of linear momentum
Topic: Systems of Particles
a. Two-particle systems
b. Many-particle systems
c. Center of mass
d. Conservation of momentum in systems of particles
Topic: Circular Motion and Rotation
a. Uniform circular motion
b. Rotational kinematics
d. Rotational dynamics
e. Angular Momentum and conservation of angular momentum
Topic: Oscillation and Gravitation
a. Simple harmonic motion
b. Newton’s law of gravitation
c. Planetary and satellite orbit
1. Measurement of Length
Students will take repeated measurements of the dimensions of a table to
demonstrate experimental uncertainty in measurements, basic statistical concepts,
and error propagation.
2. Lab: Force Table and Vector Addition of Forces
Students will use a force table to determine the magnitude and direction of several
simultaneously applied forces to demonstrate the addition of vectors. Students
find utilize both graphical and analytical solutions.
3. Acceleration due to gravity
Students will use a timer to determine the acceleration due to gravity. Students
will measure distances and calculate velocities and accelerations. They will use
the data to plot several graphs and find average acceleration via slope and
4. Projectile Motion
Students will determine the relationship between the launch speed of a horizontal
projectile and its range and time in air. Students will design their own procedures
to promote inquiry. The will plot graphs of time in air vs. horizontal velocity and
range vs. horizontal velocity.
5. Projectile Motion 2
Students will determine the relationship between the angle of launch and the
range of a projectile by using a projectile launcher.
6. Newton’s Second Law on the Atwood Machine
Students will use an Atwood machine to apply different forces to a fixed total
mass. They will determine the acceleration produced by a series of different
forces and demonstrate the relationship between force and acceleration. Time
will be measured and acceleration will be calculated. A graph will be made of the
applied force vs. acceleration to find the slope and compare to measured values.
7. Coefficient of Friction
Students will determine the static and kinetic coefficients of friction by utilizing a
block and a wooden plank oriented at an angle. Students will design their own
procedures to promote inquiry.
8. Conservation of Mechanical Energy
Students will demonstrate the conservation of mechanical energy by measuring
the gravitational and spring potential energy in an oscillating mass-spring system.
Students will also be able to calculate for the kinetic energy and velocity of the
mass through the concept of conservation of energy.
9. Conservation of Momentum
Students will explore the concept of conservation of momentum using two carts
of unequal masses. Using a spark timer and two carts which will move apart from
each other via a spring mechanism, students will design their own procedures to
10. Conservation of Energy and Momentum
Students will use a ballistic pendulum to demonstrate conservation of energy,
conservation of momentum, and projectile motion. By measuring the height to
which the pendulum rises, students are able to deduce the kinetic energy and thus
initial velocity. This can be compared to the velocity calculated from an analysis
of projectile motion.
11. Physical Pendulum
Students will find the relationship between the period of a pendulum and its
length, mass, and amplitude. To encourage inquiry, students will design their
own procedures to find how these variables will affect the period. Graphs will be
made for period vs. each of the variables.
12. Mass on a Spring
Students will determine the spring constant k by measuring the period of
oscillation for a spring-mass system in simple harmonic motion. This value will
be compared to a k determined from the elongation of the spring for certain
forces. The slope of a period squared vs. mass will be analyzed.