Sport helps STEM fields
STEM? Well I’ll tell you a bit later. First I have to make a proper intro to this article.
About a year or so ago Arsenal football player launched a news story that had nothing to do with football.
Arsenal’s French midfielder Mathieu Flamini announced he is about to become a billionaire, thanks to a major breakthrough in the energy field by a company called GF Biochemicals. The “G” in the name of the company stands for Pasquale Granata and the “F” stands for, you guessed it, Mathieu Flamini.
This story amazed me, Mathieu Flamini used the great wealth he earned from those big football wages to invest in his future, but also to invest in the future of whole mankind.
As an angel investor he bought these scientists’ time to create something amazing.
I’m nowhere near qualified to predict what will the future of Levulinic Acid be, but what is sure, Flamini and his GF Biochemicals will not stop here.
In GF Biochemicals story, sport and science mixed together in an unusual way to produce massive success.
We Need Education
For quite some time the United States of America are behind other countries when it comes to highest levels of education. US citizens may agree or disagree with the way these numbers are gathered and interpreted, but nobody can disagree that education standards can always be better and that higher education standards eventually enrich each country.
United States have fallen behind other nations when it comes to education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM fields.
As little as just 16% of US high school students decided to dedicate their career to STEM fields.
“If you want to convince more students to participate or stay in STEM programs, introduce them to interesting, fun applications like sports and see how they respond.” – NI.com
Technology has already taken over our lives and with time it will get an even stronger grip, therefore STEM educated people will not just be in demand, they will be crucial and their knowledge will not be crucial only in STEM fields, but in any other field.
These bad numbers couldn’t go unnoticed in the United States. The highest office decided to act, president Obama himself launched a plan that had the goal to move American students “from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math.”
US Department of Education and the Committee of STEM education were awarded a mission to educate 100,000 new STEM teachers on the national level over the next ten years. This mission will be helped by $170M in the 2015 fiscal budget, alone.
President Obama created a strong start and others followed.
Sport Techie (“world’s leading resource devoted to the burgeoning intersection of sports technology”) collaborated with National Instruments (NI) to start their #SportsInSTEM Series.
Their thought process lead them to the conclusion that the best way to gain attention of students for STEM (or anything else for that matter) is to combine STEM with things students really care about – their smart phones and their favorite sport teams.
Companies like NI have the interest to educate next generations and maximize the number of STEM students and since the access to hardware and software tools is one of the biggest problems, NI and other similar companies play a massive role in popularization of STEM fields among students.
Time Warner Cable is another big company that started their project to promote STEM via sports. Their project is called Connect A Million Minds.
And basically that is it about STEM in Sports, you now know why it exists, how it started and how it is run. Only time will tell will it be successful.
Actually that is not entirely true. After I show you how big these projects already are, how dedicated athletes and brands are to educate young generations, and how cool it must be for kids to participate in these projects, their success should not be in question.
Time Warner Cable’s Connect A Million Minds project “has” several big names in the world of sports participating in their STEM education project.
So, without complicating here are the sports and athletes involved:
Tennis representative of Connect A Million Minds’ is the 23 year-old Sloane Stephens, who won 4 titles and reached the Australian Open semis.
Ryan Getzlaf, 2007 Stanley Cup champion with Anaheim Ducks, presents ice hockey and talks about STEM and Hockey.
Super Bowl XLVI winner with New York Giants, Victor Cruz, connects STEM and football.
Legendary Magic Johnson, a 5-time NBA Champion, 3-time NBA finals MVP and 3-time NBA MVP, has big dreams for this project.
Golf’s representative in this project is Ian Poulter, nicknamed “Mr. Ryder Cup”, 2-time PGA tour winner and 12-time European Tour winner!
And last and definitely not the least – racing. Or Nascar to be precise. It is represented with three stars:
Kasey Kahne, 6 time Sprint Cup Series winner Jimmie Johnson and 4 time Sprint Cup Series winner Jeff Gordon.
Even before the STEM projects, most of us had several car related physics and math problems, so it is not a surprise that racing is so well presented in this project.
For all of these sports, Connect A Million Minds offers downloadable games for kids which allow them a way to learn and develop passion for STEM fields in a fun and exciting way, whether it is about geometry on golf’s green or physics involved in downforce and drifting.
On top of that “Connect A Million Minds” also offers new episodes on their Youtube channel.
Other Examples of Sport and STEM collaborations
Oakland A’s is the baseball organization best known worldwide for the movie “Moneyball”. In the future they might also be known for their work in the community and STEM education.
Together with Chevron, Oakland A’s hosted more than 100 Richmond Little Leaguers for a STEM project that will look to inspire kids to learn about science through sport.
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) August 14, 2016
Several members of A’s coaching staff and members of their roster participated in this event, including their pitcher Kendall Graveman, who was a mechanical engineering student at Mississippi State and is therefore expectedly a STEM supporter.
The San Francisco 49ers lead the way among the NFL teams with their STEM Education Program, which offers – to more than 60,000 students – a possibility to connect sport with health, metrics in football, equipment technology and stadium engineering. Simultaneously, in collaboration with the 49ers’ Education Program, STEM Leadership Institute provides additional opportunities to groups of 60 students who want to learn more. These students have access to a lab with state of the art technology.
Since Silicon Valley is close, 49ers’ STEM program is also linked with several tech companies from the area.
“There has been an explosion in the use of technology during the years I’ve been managing. It started with video, and making tapes of games. Now, players and coaches can analyze what happens on the field in total detail. Most of the attention now is on the technology of metrics and using computers to calculate probabilities and efficiencies” Tony LaRussa, Arizona Diamondbacks player
As it is the case in all of these STEM education projects, 49ers’ players are also involved. And even better, it looks like they have acquired a new face for their project when the drafted Joshua Garnet in 2016. Garnet was a biology student at Stanford with aspirations to become a trauma surgeon after his football career.
Denver Broncos are another NFL team that has launched its own STEM education project. Broncos’ one is called “Tackle STEM”
In Denver, students learn how the Broncos keep their turf in perfect state and how the scoreboard and monitors are operated.
On top of that students get to meet 3-D animator Luis Miranda, a person behind Lego-like highlights of Broncos’ games.
One of the most active athletes with his STEM project is Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urshel. He teamed up with Texas Instruments to create a plan that will introduce new sport related activities for the TI-84 Plus graphing calculators. This “STEM Behind Sports” program will hopefully push students in the direction of STEM fields.
— Baltimore Ravens (@BaltimoreRRaven) July 14, 2016
“Mathematics serves me well on the football field. Being able to think quickly and efficiently is useful, to an offensive lineman, especially. Math is applicable to business, too, because it’s a language used to communicate ideas”, John Urschel.
TI-84 calculators offer “Field Goal for the Win!” extension, which shows student science behind a field goal kick.
John Urschel is very passionate about this project because he himself is currently earning his Ph.D at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On top of this and his NFL career, he is already a published mathematician.
I don’t know about you, but I love to see that celebrities and/or athletes have been successful in any science field, like it is the case with Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik and the Golden age of Hollywood Star Hedy Lamarr (a bit off topic, but her story is really remarkable).
“My interest in math stemmed from the intellectual curiosity I had; a desire deep inside myself to understand why things were a certain way; a desire to solve problems; a core to know ‘why?. I was drawn to math because of the rigor and elegance of it. It’s good to ask why, and to know why, and to verify things that are inherently beautiful about the world. And mathematics help you do that” – John Urschel
Coby Fleener is another NFL player involved in STEM education projects. But, same as John Urchel, Indianapolis Colts’ tight end has his own project called ‘Coby’s Coding Camp’ which he runs in collaboration with a software company called Six feet Up.
Fleener is another athlete with a STEM degree, he has earned the title Bachelor of Science, Technology and Society Degree at Stanford University.
‘Coby’s Coding Camp’ teaches kids about the possibilities that software coding offers, in a very unique way – by having and NFL player as a teacher.
“I would say that there’s kind of an aura around Silicon Valley of you can create any possibility that you want. And so, if we can teach the kids that they can create their future, literally, through learning some of this stuff, it’s really exciting.” – Coby Fleener
Last for this article, but definitely not least, is the story of an NBA’s team STEM education project.
Boston Celtics, in collaboration with a global learning company called Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, launched an online math challenge called “SCORE with Go Math!”.
This challenge includes a series of math problems and videos from Celtics’ player Tyler Zeller and team’s mascot Lucky the Leprechaun.
Winning school earns a visit from Lucky and a Celtics’ player plus class tickets to a Celtics home game.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2016
“We are proud to launch the second installment of the SCORE with Go Math! Academy initiative. This collaboration between HMH and the Celtics provides students with educational, basketball-themed content in an exciting and interactive way.” – Celtics Team President Rich Gotham.
This list is just a portion of STEM education projects that involve professional sport teams or athletes. I could go on and on, but these few examples are in my opinion enough to show the serious dedication from sport brands, IT brands and athletes to educate young generations about possibilities STEM fields offer and a massive potential these projects have in education and positive influence in community.
These partnerships between IT brands and sport brands are mutually beneficial and they create a positive image for each of these brands, so it is expected that growing trend for sport involvement in STEM education will not stop anytime soon. Science and IT brands use massive influence sport brands and athletes have on young generations, to make as big as possible impact on students and their future.
Even if kids decide not to direct their career in direction of STEM fields in these workshops they meet real, positive role models, who they already look up to thanks to their efforts on the field. These athletes are thinking ahead about their future beyond their sport careers. Young generations are never too young to realize the importance of goal setting and long term planning. The sooner the better.
Just as Philadelphia Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos said when he competed on America’s Got Talent: “NFL stands for Not For Long”
Sport brands and IT brands are also looking into the future for mutual benefit:
Under Armour Founder & CEO Kevin Plank explains:
“Today you have more information about your car than you do about your own body. How do we get smarter people to address sports? This isn’t rocket science but imagine if we could apply rocket science to problems we have in sports.”
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