Program Strands

Multifaceted, Rigorous Academics
The Governor’s School is a two-year, half-day program for 11th and 12th graders. Additional courses will be taken at the home high school to complete an Advanced Diploma degree. Each strand provides a unique emphasis on both the science subject matter and associated career fields. Students will be able to participate in one of the following three strands:

  • The Engineering Strandprovides an intense, rigorous study and application of calculus-based physics and the philosophy and fundamental principles of engineering. Students develop a passion for calculus and physics during their junior year, accumulating knowledge and understanding of the function and performance of all manner of modern technology. The course sequence investigates in the Junior Year the physics principals of classical mechanics, gravitation, periodic motion, electric and magnetic field theory, DC circuit theory, and geometric optics through in-depth discussion, concept development, and inquiry-based experimental laboratory activities. In an exciting and challenging senior year, students are introduced to topics in modern physics exploring relativity, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics along with enlightening laboratory experiences. The senior year provides also a progressive engineering education promoting individual creativity and personal integrity in hands-on, process- and project-based learning environments. In preparation for their future university studies and professional careers in areas such as research engineering and new product development, students draw from all of their previous high school courses and experiences to complete a series of highly visible team keystone projects where individual creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship are fused in a dynamic process of successful engineering design.
  • The Biological Science Strand provides insights into organic and inorganic chemistry in conjunction with cell and molecular biology by employing advanced technologies utilized in medicine, forensic science, and research labs. An advanced level understanding of biology and chemistry sets the stage for senior students to argue controversial topics concerning the environment. Analyze water quality and biodiversity during monthly sampling of a nearby pond. Extensive field work and laboratory analysis generates a nine-month database for a more comprehensive understanding of our local environment.
  • The Computational Science & Engineering (CS&E) Strand provides a detailed study of the problem-solving methodologies and robust tools for the solution of scientific and engineering problems. In the junior year, students study college-level Physics including principals of mechanics, thermodynamics, oscillations, sound, and electricity, as well as high-level programming languages to model and solve complex problems in Physics. In the senior year, students are introduced to optics, electromagnetic fields and forces, electric circuits, induction, and selected topics in Modern Physics. Also in the senior year, students receive instruction in the fundamentals of engineering and engineering design including problem definition and problem solving, technical communications, and heuristics, ethics, estimation, trade-off analysis, and other skills of the engineering profession. By utilizing the engineering design process, the theoretical concepts in semiconductor physics and digital circuits will be applied to design computationally-based products in areas of contemporary interest such as big data, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things.

With small class sizes and advanced-degreed faculty, the learning environment at the Governorís School is truly unique. Each course has been specifically structured to incorporate best practices for gifted students. Please reference the Program Model for Strand prerequisites. All stands encompass a math course during both the junior and senior year. Placement in the appropriate math course will be determined upon admission at the end of 10th grade. In addition, each strand will foster research through a Research Methods and Ethics course the junior year and an Honors Research and Mentorship placement the senior year. In total, students will spend approximately 3 hours at the Governorís School, taking three courses each year during the two-year program.

Course Descriptions SY 17-18

Engineering and CS&E Strand and Course Descriptions

Calculus-based Engineering Physics I & II: Mechanics to Electromagnetism (4571): (2 weighted high school credits).

This is a mathematically rigorous course that investigates the principals of classical mechanics, gravitation, periodic motion, electric and magnetic field theory, AC and DC circuit theory, and geometric optics through in-depth discussion, concept development, and inquiry-based experimental laboratory activities. The course also develops problem solving skills which emphasize the importance of inquiry in science and integrates the overarching themes of conservation and symmetry. Laboratory experiments use apparatuses such as dynamic tracks, ballistic pendulums, and different LabPro sensors to investigate fundamental physics theories and mathematical concepts. Computer data acquisition software is utilized to collect, analyze, and graph experimental data. The course encourages hands-on activities, class participation, and students taking responsibility for their own learning. Students will be provided many opportunities throughout the course to design and carry out investigations and to analyze and evaluate data. Learning fundamental principles, generalizations, model building, and the ability to apply course material to improve thinking, problem solving, and decision making are essential general goals. Gaining factual knowledge and developing specific skills, competencies, and points of view needed by professionals are important general goals.

Prerequisites: Pre-Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics (2/3 Sciences)

Calculus-based Engineering Physics III and IV: Modern Physics and Applied Physics: Engineering Design Principles (4580): (2 weighted high school science credits)

Learning fundamental knowledge of engineering and physics disciplines and the requisite skills to perform research, problem-solve, innovate, and create opportunities in the real world are the overarching goals of this course. Extending the first year physics material, the course includes investigations in modern physics topics such as relativity, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics, including, for example, conceptual understanding and practical applications of the wave function, Schrodingerís Equation, and radiation and radioactivity. The course includes also a series of project-based engineering learning experiences to help the student acquire and apply the fundamental skills, design approaches, and best practices of the engineering profession. Learning tools include, for example, industry standard multi-physics systems modeling and simulation software, hands-on design and troubleshooting of solid state electronics and digital systems, industry standard computer-aided-design software, and additive manufacturing fabrication systems. In challenging keystone projects, while assuming the role of the entrepreneur, the student is tasked to identify real-world engineering problems or opportunities, to propose and seek client approval for their unique solutions and innovations, then to design, build, and demonstrate the final product. The keystone project experiences include professional engagement with technology leaders and successful entrepreneurs invited from community research centers, manufacturers, start-up incubators, and other organizations.

Prerequisites: Calculus-based Engineering Physics I & II, Pre-Calculus.

Computational Physics: (4525): (2 weighted high school science credits)

Computational physics uses advanced computing capabilities to understand and solve complex problems. It is about the application of computers to advance science, largely the modeling and simulating of the physical world. The computational physics course focuses on the computational aspects of physical problems. It takes advantage of improvements in computer hardware and robust mathematical techniques. The scope of this course is the presentation of improved techniques for the numerical solution of problems in areas of college physics. It covers mechanics, thermodynamics, oscillations, sound, electricity and selected topics in modern physics. Students in this course utilize computational tools such as a high-level programming language (Python) or Mathematica. The course begins by introducing the fundamental concepts in Newtonian mechanics on one side, and computational tools on the other. Later in the course students learn how to combine these two disciplines and acquire the skills needed to solve complex problems in Physics. Concepts are reinforced through hands-on demonstrations and physics labs.

Prerequisites: Algebra II/Trig, Biology, Chemistry, Physics (2/3 Sciences)

Engineering Design Innovation & Entrepreneurship (4550): (2 weighted high school science credits)

Learning fundamental knowledge of applied physics, design innovation, and the engineering profession, and applying the requisite skills to problem-solve, innovate, and create opportunities in the real world, are the overarching goals of this course. The course begins with more advanced studies in physics principles and applied physics in engineering, including wave phenomena, electricity and magnetism, and select topics in solid state physics and modern electronics and digital systems. The course continues with a series of project-based learning experiences to help the student acquire and apply the fundamental skills, tools, and best practices of the STEM-based professions. Hands-on learning tools include, for example, solid state systems design and troubleshooting, microprocessor-controlled and sensor-based systems programming, industry standard computer-aided-design software, and additive manufacturing fabrication systems. In challenging keystone projects, while assuming the role of the entrepreneur, the student is tasked to identify real-world engineering problems or opportunities, to propose and seek client approval for their unique solutions and innovations, then to design, build, and demonstrate the final product. The keystone project experiences include professional engagement with technology leaders and successful entrepreneurs invited from community research centers, manufacturers, start-up incubators, and other organizations.

Prerequisites: Computational Science and Engineering, Pre-Calculus.

Scientific Research Experience
During their two years at the Governorís School, students will experience hands-on science through classroom experimentation and individualized project research.

  • The junior year research experience involves
      • various aspects of research methodology,
      • ethics and statistics,
      • critical thinking skills,
      • scientific writing and communication skills,
      • a research project for submission to Tidewater Science Fair.
  • During the senior year, students participate in an Honors Research and Mentorship experience with a professional. Final projects are presented to the local scientific and professional community as a culminating experience in May. The opportunity to work with a professional in research is an invaluable experience toward career pursuits.

Applied Leadership
A variety of school activities, clubs, and competitions provide students with opportunities to cultivate their leadership skills. Social interaction and community-building are integral components of the program. The Student Advisory Board provides another opportunity for students to lead their peers in the organization of the program and school travel activities.