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New site explores the science of the Winter Olympics

Videos feature interviews with athletes, engineers about concepts that help competitors excel in the Olympics

winter-olympicsNBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, has partnered with the National Science Foundation to create a new video series exploring the “Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”

The videos mark the latest installment in NBC Learn’s Emmy Award-winning “Science of Sports” series. Narrated by NBC Olympics hockey host Liam McHugh, this 10-part video collection delves into the physics, engineering, chemistry, design, and mathematics behind the Winter Olympics events.

The video segments feature a variety of sports stories as told by some of the world’s top athletes, along with perspectives and research from NSF-supported scientists and engineers. They reveal how key engineering and science concepts, as well as cutting-edge technology, play an integral part in each athlete’s sport.

“We are very excited to release this special series, as the Sochi Olympics nears, and build on our innovative partnership with NSF,” said Soraya Gage, general manager of NBC Learn, in a press release. “Viewers will be able to watch and learn how science and design concepts play an essential role in the Olympic experience.”

“These stories demonstrate the interplay between sports and engineering, in areas from robotics to medical treatments,” said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF’s assistant director for engineering. “We hope the impressive feats of athletes and engineering researchers will engage and inspire young people, as they see how engineering technologies can change many facets of our lives.”

The videos include…

Alpine Skiing and Vibration Damping: Kam Leang, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Tom Watson, of Watson Performance in Hood River, Ore., describe how advanced materials and engineering help reduce unwanted vibration, optimizing the performance of athletes.

• Figure Skating Physics: Brad Orr, head of the physics department at the University of Michigan, explains that good balance, or stability, is basic to everything a skater does—and this begins with understanding the center of mass.

Engineering Competition Suits: At the 2014 Olympics, long track speed skater Shani Davis will be wearing what might be one of the most advanced competition suits ever engineered. Under Armour Innovation lab’s Kevin Haley and polymer scientist and engineer Sarah Morgan, of the University of Southern Mississippi, explain how competition suits help improve athlete performance by reducing friction and improving aerodynamics.

Engineering the Half Pipe: Mechanical engineer Brianno Coller, a professor at Northern Illinois University, explains how engineers design the half pipe so that snowboarder Shaun White can get more air time and allow him to perform tricks.

Each episode is accompanied by science and engineering-focused lesson plans developed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for middle school and high school teachers.

“Teachers are always looking for new and innovative ways of cultivating student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said David Evans, NSTA’s executive director. Evans said the videos “provide teachers with an opportunity to connect their curriculum to real-world applications, which enhances student engagement.”

Other videos in NBC Learn’s “Science of Sports” series feature the Science of the Summer Olympics, Science of NFL Football, and Science of NHL Hockey.

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