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Science

Videos Draw on Olympic Sports for Engineering Lessons

By Erik W. Robelen — July 12, 2012 1 min read

Some swimmers, runners, and other athletes gearing up for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London have gotten a little help from engineers to improve their performance.

The National Science Foundation and NBC have produced a new set of 10 videos intended to bring engineering to life for America’s youth by highlighting these and other intersections between Olympic athletes and the discipline. (I previously blogged about a similar effort pegged to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.)

“The work of engineers not only affects Olympic sports, it also helps us perform ordinary activities in better ways,” said Thomas Peterson, the NSF’s assistant director for engineering, in a press release. “This series will illustrate how engineers can impact both sports and society, and we hope it will inspire young people to pursue engineering.”

The series, narrated by NBC Sports Group’s Liam McHugh, covers a variety of topics. For instance, as the press release explains, viewers will learn how swimmer Missy Franklin cuts through water faster thanks to specially-engineered pools, how a stereoscopic-camera system helps Olympic decathlete Bryan Clay improve his long jump, and how “blades” technology assists Paralympian Oscar Pistorius compete against able-bodied runners in the Olympic Games.

Another video explains how engineering advances have helped to design head gear for boxers, cyclists, and equestrian competitors that maximize safety and performance.

The series also examines the “biomechanics” of athletes—from the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, to weightlifter Sarah Robles (pictured above)—and how technology still has much to learn from human achievement.

Photo credit: Robles lifts 246.9 pounds during the women’s weightlifting competition at the Pan American Games last October in Guadalajara, Mexico. Arnulfo Franco/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.