Dr. Smock and An Out-of-This-World Experience

Isabella Grella and Stephania Quintero

As students who have sat in classrooms for over ten years, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the educational opportunities we are presented with. School becomes not about learning, but about getting through classes. One teacher is determined to not let this be the case for his students. Dr. Thomas Smock teaches AP Physics and Advanced Topics in Physics. Although both classes have complicated subject matters and a heavy curriculum, Dr. Smock tries to stray away from rote learning, and instead provides opportunities for his students to dive into the seemingly endless and unreal universe physicists everywhere are trying to explain.

Dr. Smock’s Advanced Topics in Physics class, better known as ATP, has garnered a lot of attention in recent years; there are now two classes running. But what is really discussed between the walls of ATP? “We learn how to solve problems by thinking outside the box,” says senior Kristen Cefaloni. “It’s important because we can apply that type of thinking outside the classroom.” Senior Eduardo Delgado agrees. “You learn about physics in a more universal way.”

From Einstein’s theories and blackholes to radioactivity and nuclear energy, ATP touches upon  some of the most mind-blowing and thought-provoking topics in the physics world. Senior Jenn Redington describes it as “learning about everything under the sun and beyond it.”

Dr. Smock doesn’t want the education to end here. He has assigned “Diner Tours,” an opportunity for students to think outside the box and even outside the school walls, with hopes of educating people within our community about the prevalence of physics in everyday life. These Diner Tours force students to read and think about outrageous physics possibilities at a community diner, opening the minds of those outside of Hills. “I talked to one of my students, asking what she learned from this class,” says Dr. Smock.  “What she told me was that she learned how to be curious again. When you spend a lifetime being curious, there’s no limit to what you can learn. “