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Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering in Sports

Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering in Sports

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Science of the Summer Olympics, the fourth and latest installment in the Science of Sports series, explores the science, engineering, and technology that are helping athletes maximize their performance at the 2012 London Games. "Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering in Sports" is a partnership with NBC Learn, NBC Sports, and the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Engineering.

The videos, averaging between four and five minutes in length, highlight research funded by the NSF that has applications in the world of sports, using some of the most popular athletes that are competing in the 2012 London games. The titles include:

Missy Franklin and Fluid Dynamics: U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin masters the basic principles of fluid dynamics in order to be the fastest swimmer in the pool.

The Impact of Jenny Simpson: 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.

Designing Safety Helmets: A mechanical engineer at New York University's Polytechnic Institute explains how the safety helmets that Olympians wear are designed, constructed, and tested.

Engineering for Mobility: A biomechanical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrates how engineering can help wheelchair athletes maximize their performances in the 2012 Paralympics.

Designing a Fast Pool: Through advances in pool design, engineers are helping swimmers reach their maximum speed with technology designed to minimize waves.

The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt: This video 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.

The Strength and Flexibility of Oscar Pistorius: 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.

Maximizing the Long Jump of Bryan Clay: In order to maximize his performance, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay teamed up with engineers from BMW to improve measurement of the horizontal and vertical velocities of his long jumps.

Measuring a Champion: 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.


Going Further


For Educators

As with the other videos in the Science of Sports series, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will provide classroom ready lesson plans to help teachers integrate the videos into their teaching. The lessons will be published on the NSTA blog. To find the lesson, search using the category “NSF Videos and Lessons.” Lessons will also be posted to the NSF site.

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