APS News

ESPN2 Series Investigates the Science in Sports

Science educators looking for new ways to pique their students' interest should be pleased to hear about SportsFigures, an innovative, award-winning educational television series that employs sports celebrities, irreverent humor, edgy music, exciting locations, lively hosts, cool graphics and a fast pace to engage kids and get them interested in learning. Produced in association with ESPN, the series premiered in 1995 as part of the industry-wide program, Cable in the Classroom. It's designed to teach young people, aged 12 to 16, the principles of physics and math using sports to grab their attention and provide a practical real-life example.

Each weekly, commercial-free, half-hour show features two segments in which a celebrity athlete helps take the math or physics problem out of the classroom and into the field, exploring such questions as why a curve ball curves, and why a gymnast spins faster in a tuck position. The 1998-1999 season features segments on baseball, soccer, track, sailing, race cars, scuba diving, basketball, snowboarding and golf.

The recent recipient of a Parent's Choice Award for educational television, SportsFigures' only problem seems to be that no one knows of its existence, no doubt due to the air time: Monday mornings at 5:30 AM on ESPN2. But hopefully that will soon change. ESPN recently announced that, through sponsorship with Infoseek's GO Network, it will distribute the series to all 18,000 public and private U.S. high schools. ESPN already provides free curriculum guides to accompany the television episodes, including lesson plans and student activity sheets. Copies are available on the Web at http://www.ESPN.com.

FUTURE SHOWTIMES

Editor's Note: Episode 1, featuring segments on "Running with Momentum" and "Relaxing with Impulse" as illustrated in the NFL, last aired on April 26, 1999.

Episode 2 - Airs May 3, 1999
That Mu You Do. Features NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon. How does friction keep a NASCAR car on the track? Explores what friction is and how to quantify it.

Bouncing Basketballs. Features WNBA Sacramento Monarchs star Pamela McGee. Why does a basketball bounce? How does a league get all the balls to bounce the same?

Episode 3 - Airs May 10, 1999
The Sounds of Summer. Features New York Yankees All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter. Explores the travel of light and sound and how a game is broadcast.

Golf is a Drag. Features PGA golfer Harrison Frazer. Hooks and slices plague golfers. The physics of aerodynamics can help solve the problem.

Episode 4 - Airs May 17, 1999
In Golf Gravitas. Features PGA putter Brad Faxon. Explores how understanding topography can help you master your putting.

Tracking Speed. World champion and Olympic gold medalist decathlete Dan O'Brien sprints through the physics of motion to explore speed versus acceleration.

Episode 5 - Airs May 24, 1999
The Trig to Soccer. Olympic team gold medalist Julie Foudy talks about soccer, life and trigonometry in a practical introduction to tangents.

Sailing Through Bernoulli. Professional sailboat racer Scott Dickson and yacht designer Alan Andrews help explain the physics of a sailboat in terms of the Bernoulli principle and force vectors.

Episode 6 - Airs May 31, 1999
Shooting Stats. Features the NBA's second highest scorer, Ruthie Bolton-Holifield of the Sacramento Monarchs and Olympic Dream team, and explores what statistics mean to a player.

Math Under Pressure. Richard Murphy, director of the Jean-Michel Cousteau Institute, helps demonstrate the principles of atmospheres and pressure along with some algebra.

Episode 7 - Airs June 7, 1999
Big Air Rules. Features world-class brother/sister snowboarders Mike and Tina Basich. Explores the physics of projectile trajectory and parabolas through the jumps of snowboarders.

How Sweet It Is. Features Atlanta Braves All-Star Third Baseman Chipper Jones. Explores the physics of standing waves and vibrational nodes, such as why hitting a ball with a bat sometimes hurts your hands.




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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette