Kids can learn the physics of hockey and aerial skiing, the engineering of the halfpipe and bobsled, the chemistry of snow and ice, and the math of Olympic greatness — all from fabulous five minute videos featuring winter Olympics. Not only that, but kids can apply these STEM concepts into improving their own winter sports abilities and use the knowledge to experiment with science, engineering and math through play.
NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation have released Science of the Olympic Winter Games 2010 and Science and engineering of the Olympic Winter Games 2014 to teach the science and engineering behind individual Olympic events. There are sixteen videos in the 2010 series and ten videos in the 2014 series. Each video is approximately 5 minutes long, and the 2014 series includes lesson plans, integration guides and ideas for hands-on investigations, as well.
Each video clip shows how science helps athletes fulfill the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius–Swifter, Higher, Stronger. Scientists explain selected laws of physics and principles of chemistry, biomechanics and physiology while Olympic athletes and hopefuls describe how these principles apply to their respective sports.
Some of the sports include downhill and aerial skiing, speed skating and figure skating, curling and hockey, ski jumping, bobsledding and snowboarding. Athletes featured on the videos include Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Julie Chu.
The 2010 videos include:
- Aerial Physics (Aerial Skiing)
- Slapshot Physics (Hockey)
- Internal Athlete (Cross-Country Skiing)
- Olympic Motion (Mixed Sports)
- Competition Suits (Mixed Sports)
- Mathletes (Mixed Sports)
- The Science of Skis
- The Science of Skates
- Figuring Out Figure Skating
- Safety Gear (Mixed Sports)
- Banking on Speed (Bobsled)
- Downhill Science (Alpine Skiing)
- Air Lift (Ski Jump)
- Science of Snowboarding
- Science Friction (Curling)
- Blade Runners (Short Track Speed Skating)
The 2014 videos include:
- Physics of slopestyle skiing: Nick Goepper
- Engineering the half pipe: Shaun White
- Engineering competition suits: Shani Davis
- Injury and recovery: Lindsey Vonn
- Science of ice: Britanny Bowe, J.R. Celski, Gracie Gold
- Science of snow: Ted Ligety, Heather McPhie
- Engineering faster and safer bobsleds: Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton
- Alpine skiing and vibration damping: Heath Calhoun, Julia Mancuso
- Figure skating physics: Meryl Davis, Gracie Gold, Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner, Charlie White
- Olympic movement and robotic design: Julie Chu, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Shaun White
The science is broken down by capturing the athletes’ movements with a state-of-the-art, high-speed camera called the Phantom Cam, which is able to capture movement at rates of up to 1500 frames per second. This allows frame-by-frame illustrations of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction, drag, speed, velocity, and other scientific concepts.
After viewing the videos, kids can also put these scientific concepts to real-world use by participating in winter sports themselves like sledding, ice skating and skiing. If it’s not cold or snowy enough, they can also use the concepts with other sports and even through play. They can see how they can use the concepts involved with Matchbox cars and homemade ramps or with spinning tops on a variety of surfaces, for instance.
These videos do an excellent job of putting sophisticated scientific concepts into perspective with each sport. At only five minutes each, they’re also a wonderful way to work science into even the busiest winter day.