December 6, 2022


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AP® Physics 1
2015 – 2016 Syllabus & General Information

Dr. Robert F. Szalapski
The Harley School – Physics

§ 1. Contact Information

Web site:

We will make extensive use of my web site, Every student must have an account on this website. My Google calendar is embedded on the “Students/Harley Physics” page, and it will be updated frequently. A wide variety of links and down-loadable resources are available here.


This is the fastest and most reliable form of communication. My Harley e-mail is, and associated with my website I have the e-mail address

Communication is a good thing, and more is generally better.

§ 2. What is AP® Physics 1

The focus of this course is student growth and learning. An understanding of science is very important for students to grow as well educated citizens who are engaged and informed in a highly technological society. Harley graduates are expected to be highly educated and well rounded.

This is an algebra-based physics course of college-level content offered to high-school students. As a result it is somewhat multifaceted. The AP® Physics 1 curriculum covers Newtonian Mechanics plus a bit on waves and electricity.

  1. All students are required to take the AP® Physics 1 exam offered by the College Board in May. Students who score well may obtain college credit. As compared to national averages, Harley students crushed this exam last year.

  2. All students will receive a course grade which is not reflective of the AP® Physics 1 exam.

  3. After completing the AP® Physics 1 exam in May, the remainder of the year will be used to prepare for the SAT Physics Subject Test. This requires the study of a broad range of topics at a relatively superficial level.

§ 3. Text Book


We will be using an on-line textbook: Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Perfection Learning (formerly Kinetic Books). The instructor will provide access details. The full syllabus and the website will detail additional resources.


§ 4. Grading

We hope to keep the focus on student engagement, growth and learning. Nevertheless, to prevent the collapse of western civilization as we know it, students must apparently be graded. The pie chart shows the rough breakdown of the grades. The individual “slices” of the pie will be explained more thoroughly below. Please note the largest slice corresponds to “Exams”.

Letter Grade Point Total
A+ 95\le\mathrm{Points}<\infty
A 90\le\mathrm{Points}<95
A- 85\le\mathrm{Points}<90
B+ 80\le\mathrm{Points}<95
B 75\le\mathrm{Points}<80
B- 70\le\mathrm{Points}<75
C+ 60\le\mathrm{Points}<70
C 50\le\mathrm{Points}<60
C- 40\le\mathrm{Points}<50


The breakdown by letter grade is shown in this table. Please note that I have no way of officially recording the grade of A+, but I still track it for purpose of comments and feedback. Also please note that extra-credit opportunities are offered on some lab write-ups and some exams, so it is possible to obtain a score greater than 100%, but generally scores do not go all the way up to infinity (\infty). Grades are tabulated automatically to a couple of decimal places, and as a matter of routine they are not rounded up. Rounding to the next higher grade is purely at the discretion of the instructor.


Grades will be tracked in Schoology. It is the responsibility of each student to login on Schoology on a frequent basis. Please do not ask the instructor to do this on your behalf.

§ 4.1. Regarding Flexibility

Students are oftentimes over-scheduled, and time management can be an issue. It is up to each student to manage his or her time and to limit activities within his or her energy and ability limits. In order to allow some flexibility, some of the lowest scores may be dropped. Plan wisely so that you do not need to drop more than you are allowed.

§ 4.2. Homework (10%)

Anticipate homework on a daily basis that could take the form of reading, writing, problem solving, preparing for laboratory activities and maintaining the class binder. Homework will be posted on the website only. It is the responsibility of the student to check for homework assignments. While 10% may seem to be a small piece of the pie, success in the course correlates very strongly with performance on daily homework.

Homework solutions will be posted nightly on the website and the following morning on the bulletin board in the hallway. Homework must be completed and corrected prior to the start of class. Homework will be checked for completion and corrections within the first five minutes of class. Homework must be completed neatly, in pencil and with all work shown.

Late homework will not be accepted except in the event of an illness, but students may drop 4 homework assignments per marking period. This degree of flexibility is being offered in advance, so plan accordingly.

§ Class Binder

It is a class requirement that you have a course binder with section dividers for the different graded elements of the course. (Your section tabs should correspond to the pie slices above.) Maintaining the binder will be part of your homework.

§ 4.3. Quizzes (10%)

Quizzes will be given often and without notice. Any questions from homework or lab activities of the previous day or earlier are fair game. (This means that there has been time to ask questions.) These are intended to be low pressure. The primary purpose is to provide feedback on student learning so that both student and teacher may make adjustments as needed. Keeping up on homework and following-up on questions from the homework will allow for excellent quiz scores. Two quizzes may be dropped each marking period.

§ 4.4. Participation (10%)

We are very fortunate to have double periods for AP® Physics 1. In order to utilize this precious gift:

  • Students must be seated according to the daily seating chart within 3 minutes of the bell with course materials in hand and self-corrected homework ready for inspection.

  • Homework inspection will be completed within the first 5 minutes of class.

  • All students must be engaged in classroom discussions, and side conversations must be deferred for another time.

  • Students arriving late for unavoidable reasons must have a signed pass. Whenever possible other meetings must be scheduled during free periods, not during physics class.

  • Materials for other courses may not be accessible during class – even if there is an imminent exam or due date in that other class.

  • Students who complete their own work early may assist other students or work on more advanced problems as directed by the instructor.

  • Daily logins to the web site are a class requirement.

In this course we typically have the flexibility to address a variety of questions and to engage in discussions. These are classroom activities. Please do not engage in side conversations while the questions of others are being discussed. We will have a significant amount of time for small-group work in this class.

§ Course Materials

Bring your course binder with your reference tables, your lab notebook, a sharpened pencil and an eraser every day!

§ Calculators

Bring either a scientific or a graphing calculator every day!

§ Cell Phones

Cell phones serve no constructive purpose in the classroom. They should be silenced and out of sight – preferably left in your locker. Because they are a distraction from classroom activities their usage deducts from your participation grade.

§ 4.5. Labs (30%)

Labs are a huge part of the class. We will spend a lot of time collecting data, and the lab reports are very involved. Each student must

  1. independently record all data in a lab notebook.

  2. independently perform any calculations in Excel, as appropriate.

  3. independently write a lab report.

While collaboration, discussion and comparison are strongly encouraged, absolutely no copying or sharing of electronic files is tolerated. We will have two different types of labs:

Full Labs

The lab report is written in the format of a professional journal article using a format that will be provided. Reports are submitted electronically and redistributed to peer reviewers. The instructor will grade the draft and the review. Writers will then address the comments and revise their reports.


Students will generally be given a lab packet to expedite the overall process, and the write-up will be somewhat minimal.

Lab grades will be reduced by 10% for each day that a lab is late. Labs must be neat and in pencil with all work clearly displayed. Defective work will not be accepted and will be subject to late penalties while corrections are being made.

The success of last-year’s class followed largely from the focus on laboratory activities and the clear articulation and discussion of physics concepts. Lab reports are a critical component of the class.

§ 4.6. Exams (40%)

Exam scores will be much lower than anything you have experienced before. This is reflected in the cut-off scores for letter grades. Maximizing non-exam scores will maximize the course grade. Exams will include

  1. Multiple Choice questions.

  2. Computations.

  3. Qualitative Quantitative questions where you explain your strategy prior to implementing it.

  4. Experimental Design questions where you must consider how to collect data accounting for errors.

One exam is dropped each marking period.

§ 5. Food, Drink

Food and drink are absolutely forbidden on the laboratory side of the classroom. Liquids in spill-proof containers and moderate snacks are permitted on lecture side of the room only and are limited to the point where they are not a distraction. Students are responsible for their own clean-up. Because AP® Physics 1 meets first thing in morning, more flexibility is offered.

§ 6. Integrity

Each student is responsible for his or her own work. Copying or taking credit for another’s work is never permitted. On the first instance of cheating a student will receive a zero for the assignment in addition to the maximum penalties imposed by the Administration. A second integrity violation will earn a zero for the marking period in addition to the maximum penalties imposed by the Administration.

§ 7. Course Outline

The course outline is provided separately as a part of the AP® Physics 1 syllabus that was approved by the College Board. These will be the primary components of the course.

  1. SAT Physics Subject Test Preparation

  2. Master Class or equivalent as described below

A course requirement is to engage in an activity that uses real-world data in a contemporary application. Last year we participated in a Master Class at the University of Rochester where we used an event display tool to analyze the collisions of protons as detected by the CMS detector at The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. We identified events which generated W^{\pm}, Z^{0} and Higgs bosons, as a group we estimated the Higgs-boson mass, and we participated in a teleconference with physicists at Fermi National Accelerator Lab.

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