STEM at the Olympics
On the first day of the U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dean Kamen brought to light the emerging relationship between STEM and sports. As the founder of the FIRST robotics competition, Kamen looked to the Super Bowl as his inspiration to create an exhilarating, competitive atmosphere to excite kids to pursue careers in STEM. And Kareem, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, has authored a book on black inventors and has advocated STEM all around the country through his sky hook foundation.
Learning STEM through sports is a trend that is picking up steam throughout the country. Chevron has teamed up with the Oakland Athletics to create a STEM Zone at the Coliseum. Exxon Mobil and the USGA have a partnership to promote STEM teaching. You can’t watch any golfing event without seeing their STEM commercials, and they have even sent famous golfer Phil Mickelson onto CNN to bring national attention to the cause.
With the Olympics starting this weekend, people around the world are preparing to cheer for their favorite athletes. Few of them, however, know how much science and engineering went into getting them to the Games. Engineers, especially Civil Engineers, worked extremely hard to design and build the Olympic Park. Over 30 new bridges were built for the park, along with the demolition of over 200 buildings.
All of the Olympic activities have inspired the rest of the U.K. to focus on STEM learning. At London’s Southbank Centre, an installation called Motion Disabled: Unlimited showcases how Paralympians move through the use of media such as sculpture and film. A product called the Little Sun, a solar-powered lamp created for developing countries, will also be on display and for sale in several exhibits designed to show how the lamps worked.
For people not in the U.K., there are still ways to learn more about how STEM affects the Olympics. NBC Learn, a program of NBC Universal Media, partnered with the Olympic Committee and the National Science Foundation, among others, aims to bring that knowledge to the viewers at home. The NBC Learn website has sections for a variety of topics, ranging from the science of football to the Titanic to, more relevantly, the Science of the Summer Olympics. This section goes into detail about several aspects of the engineering that goes on behind the scenes at and leading up to the Games. For example, one of the videos details the engineering that went into designing the swimming pool for the meets. Many things that the average person would never even consider have been worked on and fixed, or at least alleviated with careful planning and construction. In the pool example, engineers designed the pool to minimize waves, which can slow athletes down and waste energy.