skierTeachers looking for ways to incorporate the Olympic Winter Games into their instruction have a new resource they can use: NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, has teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part video series focusing on the science behind the games. How does angular momentum help figure skater Rachael Flatt achieve the perfect triple toe loop? How does elastic collision allow three-time Olympic hockey player Julie Chu to convert a game-winning slapshot? How do Newton’s Three Laws of Motion propel short track speed skater J.R. Celski to the finish line?  These are just a few of the scientific principles explored in the new video series, called “The Science of the Olympic Winter Games.” (NBC is broadcasting the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver Feb. 12-28.) The videos capitalize on students’ interest in the Vancouver Olympics to make science more accessible to them by illustrating how scientific principles apply to competitive sports. Narrated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt, the series is available to educators free of charge on the NBC Learn web site as a timely way to incorporate the Olympics into their classroom teaching. In each video segment, an NSF-supported scientist explains a particular scientific principle, while Olympic athletes describe how these principles apply to their respective sports. The science is explained by capturing the athletes’ movements with a state-of-the-art, high-speed camera called the Phantom Cam, which has the ability to capture movement at rates of up to 1,500 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.

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Jeff Festa