It’s March Madness! Why We Should Teach STEM with Sports

Abstract vector basketball ball. Futuristic technology wire frame mesh polygonal element. Basketball Graphic Concept

Blair Blackwell
For students across America who are sports fan, this time of year can be exciting and captivating. Whether your student is throwing a football to emulate a Super Bowl touchdown drive, practicing kickflips in anticipation of being the next X Games champion, or shooting three-pointers in anticipation of March Madness, a common theme in all sports is that practice is the key to success. But, what many people may not realize, is the role that STEM plays in taking these sports to the next level.
Tapping into a student’s interest in sports can provide an effective, hands-on and fun approach to teaching STEM. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), 21.5 million kids between the ages of 6 and 17 played sports in 2011. By implementing STEM education initiatives through sports programs, we can reach a variety of students to show the relationship between their favorite sports and their classroom lessons.
In my own experience, one of my favorite science fair projects studied how height impacted gymnasts. I was in the seventh grade, and the project allowed me to directly link all the time I spent at gymnastics practice with what I was learning in science and math class, making the project more tangible and exciting.
Getting students to understand the everyday connection to STEM is imperative to encouraging them to pursue a profession in these fields. In our current economy, the number of STEM jobs is growing faster than any other field and is projected to increase 17% by 2018.
Chevron has channeled this hands-on approach to learning through sports by partnering with organizations such as the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland As, the PGA Tournament and the Super Bowl Host Committee, among others, to excite students about STEM in a unique way. The Chevron STEM Zone, a traveling interactive exhibit at sporting events, tournaments and science festivals, highlights STEM through hands-on, sports-themed lessons spanning biomechanics, aerodynamics and physics principles.  
The STEM Zone was recently at this year’s Super Bowl City in San Francisco, featuring activities such as the Pass Analysis, where visitors tested their skills using a modern and a vintage football to measure the arc, accuracy and velocity of their passes. The STEM Zone also featured equipment such as helmets, cleats and jerseys from the past and present. Fans young and old were able to try on equipment from the 1950s and today to see how technology has changed the game.
Josiah Rodriguez, left, educator at the 49ers Museum, explains the science behind a pass in the Chevron STEM Zone in Super Bowl City on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 in San Francisco. The Chevron STEM Zone is an interactive exhibit that brings the science behind football to life for fans in Super Bowl City. (Tony Avelar/AP Images for Chevron)
STEM is crucial to the world around us, and we have the opportunity to inspire students through their interest in sports and how things work. I encourage parents and teachers take advantage of programs in your local communities that teach STEM in a fun, accessible and hands-on way.
Here’s are a few basketball lessons that involve science and math for those of you who want to capitalize on March Madness:
Sports are an important and effective way to teach STEM, and hopefully encourage today’s students to become the scientists and engineers of the future.
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Blair Blackwell is Manager, Education and Corporate Programs at Chevron Corporation. Follow Blair on Twitter, @BlairBlackwell.

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