E-Learning & STEM

NBC Learn Produces Video Series on Science of Olympic Winter Games

Just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympiad taking place in Vancouver, BC this February, NBC Universal (NBCU) has teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce "The Science of the Olympic Winter Games," a 16-part educational video series that gives students extensive insight into the physics, physiology, and related science of sports like figure and speed skating, ice hockey, slalom-course skiing, and even curling.

Available at NBC Learn, each episode of the series features an NSF-supported scientists discussing a scientific principle while actual Olympic athletes explain and demonstrate how the principle relates to their respective sports. The demonstrations are captured by a specially designed high-speed camera called a Phantom Cam, which allows their movements to be broken down, analyzed, and illustrated frame by frame to show how the principle being discussed is applied, even as the athletes are performing amazing feats of physics at speeds only possible after years of intense training and constant practice.

As they watch heroes-in-the-making move at a superhuman pace and seemingly defy gravity, young viewers learn the intricacies of such principles as Newton's laws of motion, conservation of angular momentum, force, velocity, acceleration, drag, and friction. In this way they discover, before their own eyes, how such feats are not only possible but strictly controlled by the laws of nature, giving an entirely new dimension to both science education and athletic achievement.

Rachael Flatt, herself a 17-year-old high school student in Colorado, is a top contender for a spot on the United States figure skating team. And while dazzling feats on ice may her calling, with a biochemical engineer father and a molecular biologist mother, "I guess it's definitely safe to say that science runs in my blood!"

Said Flatt. "I jumped at the chance to participate in this project because my parents have passed along their love of science to me over the years and I hope to one-day pursue a career in the field."

Participating in the series' demonstrations along with Flatt are such notables as two-time Olympic ice hockey medalist and Harvard grad Julie Chu; 2006 freestyle skiing Olympian Emily Cook; 2006 bronze medalist in curling John Shuster; and 2010 Olympic hopefuls J.R. Celski (speed skating) and Liz Stephens (cross-country skiing).

"Science touches every aspect of our nation's popular pursuits, including its athletic events," said Jeff Nesbit, director of the National Science Foundation's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. "It's exciting to partner with NBC Learn and NBC's Emmy-award winning Olympic division to present the range and depth of that science to a huge American audience while ultimately inspiring the passions of young people across the United States in all the things science can do."

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.