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Reaching for Olympic Glory

Reaching for Olympic Glory
Every two years, competitors in the Olympic Games vie to determine who the world's best athletes are. 2014 marks the 22nd Winter Olympiad of the modern age. Approximately 6,000 athletes from more than 85 nations will converge upon Sochi, Russia, to take part in 89 events across seven different disciplines. An additional 1,650 athletes from 45 nations will take part in the Paralympics two weeks later. The competition is fierce, and teams will compete in everything from skating to bobsleigh and from skiing to curling.

Without realizing it, athletes also will compete to see who can best make use of science. Science — be it the physics of a snowboarder's flips, the engineering of a luger's sled, or the biochemical makeup of a biathlete's pre-race meal — serves as a common strand tying the various competitors together. Science even comes into play with more negative aspects of the Games, such as the continual testing to prevent the use of illegal biochemical substances designed to boost athletes' performance.

Science NetLinks offers these Olympics- and sports-related resources with the hopes that they will allow your students to see the excitement, hard work, and dedication that takes place not only in the snow and on the ice during the Games, but also in the laboratories and on computer screens beforehand.
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Lessons

  • Buoyant Boats

    Buoyant Boats

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will design and construct a boat that takes into account buoyancy, materials, and design constraints.
  • Reaction Time 1: How Fast Are You?

    Reaction Time 1: How Fast Are You?

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    This lesson identifies ways in which experience and practice allow humans to learn new skills, using activities that test reaction time as examples.
  • Reaction Time 2: Zap!

    Reaction Time 2: Zap!

    3-5  |  Interactive
    This lesson shows how skills can improve through practice and awareness, using a game that focuses on both visual and auditory responsiveness.
  • The Bicycle as a System

    The Bicycle as a System

    6-8  
    This lesson gives students an opportunity to examine the nature of systems in the context of an object with which they are very familiar - the bicycle.
  • Putting the Ice in Hockey

    Putting the Ice in Hockey

    6-8  
    In this lesson, students will explore a website to learn that what happens at the surface of ice to give it its slippery nature can be explained by molecular motion.
  • Skin and Sports

    Skin and Sports

    6-8  
    In this lesson, students learn about the importance of proper protection from common skin conditions when they engage in sports-related activities.
  • Snow Goggles

    Snow Goggles

    6-8  |  Hands-On
    This lesson illustrates how the use of scientific inquiry can solve different kinds of problems, like blocking unwanted sunlight.
  • Sun & Skin

    Sun & Skin

    9-12  |  Interactive
    In this lesson, students will discuss what they already know about the impact sun exposure has on their skin and what they typically do to protect themselves, if anything.

Tools

  • Human Body App

    Human Body App

    K-5  |  Interactive
    Go on an exploration of what we're made of and how we work with this Human Body app, from Tinybop.
  • Careers in Sports and Exercise Science

    Careers in Sports and Exercise Science

    6-12  |  Website
    This resource, created by Science Careers to coincide with the Athens Olympics in 2004, highlights a variety of careers related to exercise and sports science.
  • Science of NHL Hockey

    Science of NHL Hockey

    6-12  |  Video
    The National Science Foundation, in partnership with NBC Learn and NBC Sports and the National Hockey League, explore the science and math behind professional hockey.
  • Science of the Olympic Winter Games

    Science of the Olympic Winter Games

    6-12  |  Video
    Created by NBC and NSF, these videos feature interviews with athletes and coaches who explain the science behind the Olympic Winter Games.
  • Science at the Olympics

    Science at the Olympics

    9-12  |  Website
    This spread from Science magazine discusses questions about the intersection of scientific and technological innovation and the Olympics games.

Science Updates

  • Fastest Swimsuit

    Fastest Swimsuit

    6-12  |  Audio
    A team of scientists has developed what may be the world's fastest swimsuit.
  • Sprinter Advantage

    Sprinter Advantage

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, hear why Olympic runners closest to the start gun may get a slight advantage.
  • Sprinter Feet

    Sprinter Feet

    6-12  |  Audio
    Elite sprinters may be helped by unusual foot anatomy.
  • Sports Drinks

    Sports Drinks

    6-12  |  Audio
    The acidity in sports drinks wears down tooth enamel—and brushing can worsen the problem.

Videos

  • Science of the Summer Olympics: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt

    9-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. It examines how Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's stride, strength, and muscle coordination have helped him record the fastest time in the world in the 100 meter sprint.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: Designing a Fast Pool

    8-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. Through advances in pool design, engineers are helping swimmers reach their maximum speed with technology designed to minimize waves.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: Designing Safety Helmets

    7-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. A mechanical engineer at New York University's Polytechnic Institute explains how the safety helmets that Olympians wear are designed, constructed, and tested.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering for Mobility

    8-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. A biomechanical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrates how engineering can help wheelchair athletes of all sports maximize their performance at the Paralympic Games.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: The Impact of Jenny Simpson

    6-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. U.S. runner Jenny Simpson relied on new treadmill technology to help rehabilitate from a stress fracture as she trained for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: Maximizing the Long Jump of Bryan Clay

    9-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. In order to maximize his performance, 2008 Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bryan Clay teamed up with engineers from BMW to improve measurement of the horizontal and vertical velocities of his long jumps.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: Measuring a Champion

    6-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. An electrical engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology explains why Olympic timekeeping technology must be able to measure an athlete's performance with both accuracy and precision.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: Missy Franklin and Fluid Dynamics

    8-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin masters the basic principles of fluid dynamics in order to be the fastest swimmer in the pool.
  • Science of the Summer Olympics: The Strength and Flexibility of Oscar Pistorius

    6-12  |  Video
    This video is from the "Science of the Summer Olympics" series, produced by NBC and the National Science Foundation. South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius is the first double-amputee athlete to compete at the Olympics. He will race in the 400 meter race and 4x400 meter relay using a pair of carbon fiber prosthetic legs engineered to store and release energy from the impact of his strides.

AAAS Resources

ScienceNOW: Live Chat: Science at the Olympics
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: Readers and ScienceNOW editors talk to scientists about the use of prosthetics in the 2012 games and biomechanics of Olympians. Participants include Peter Weyand, associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics at Southern Methodist University, who has studied the mechanics, physiology and locomotor performance behind running for decades, and J.L. McNitt-Gray, professor of biological sciences and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, who studies the dynamics of human movement.

ScienceNOW: Don Catlin's ScienceLive Responses
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: Blood doping expert Don Catlin, founder of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, answers questions from readers and ScienceNOW editors about performance-enhancing drugs and the London Olympics.


Other Resources

Canadian Olympic School Program
Grade Band: K-12
Description: This program offers free downloadable lesson plans, interactive components, contests at various levels, and stories about Olympians.

Olympics Quest
Grade Band: 3-8
Description: This website invites students to nominate a city to hold the next Olympics and encourages them to back up their suggestion by considering a number of factors, including geography and climate. (The link to the rubric on the page is broken; the correct link is here.)

Sochi 2014 Olympics
Grade Band: 3-12
Description: The official site for the 2014 Winter Games offers general news about the games, video, in-depth information about sports, and daily updates about the various competitions.

International Olympic Committee
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: The official site for the International Olympic Committee, the governing body of the Olympic Games, shares highlights from past Olympics, includes photos and videos, and highlights online exhibits of the Olympic Museum.

London 2012 Olympic Games
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: The official site for the 2012 Summer Games offers general news about the games, video, in-depth information about sports, and daily updates about the various competitions.

London 2012 Paralympic Games
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: The official site for the 2012 Paralympic Games includes video interviews with athletes, discusses the different competitions, and highlights inroads made into improving access for all disabled athletes around the world.

NBC Olympics
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: NBC Sports highlights the on-field and behind-the-scenes goings-on associated with the Olympic Games.

The Science of Sport
Grade Band: 9-12
Description: Two scientists with Ph.D.'s from the Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit at the University of Cape Town opine about the latest in sports-related science. This is a blog, so teachers should consider reading the entries ahead of time to make sure that the material is appropriate for students.


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