George Lucas Educational Foundation
Student Engagement

5-Minute Film Festival: The Science of Sports

Sports offers a perfect opportunity to explore concepts like force, motion, potential energy, velocity, and torque. Engage your students with this collection of videos about the intersection of science and sports. 

August 1, 2014

Editor's Note: VideoAmy here ... I'm excited to have Edutopia's new Web Video Strategy Coordinator, Keyana Stevens, guest curating today's Five-Minute Film Festival. You may be seeing more of Keyana in this space moving forward, I'm sure you'll love her picks as much as I do!

All the attention around the World Cup last month got me thinking: sports offers a perfect opportunity to explore scientific concepts like force, motion, potential energy, velocity, and torque. Use these videos to inspire your students to look beyond the surface of the game's latest score and find out why a ball bounces, how physics keeps a bike upright, and how a football slices through the air to travel long distances. You just might be able to spark a sporty kid's interest in science -- or vice versa!

Video Playlist: The Science of Sports

Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

  1. Why Do We Play Games? (12:12)

    Maybe you're wondering: why do we play sports at all? This video from Vsauce explores the history of games and what makes them appealing. It's on the long side, but a great place to start. 

  2. Why Some Balls Don't Bounce (02:04)

    Basketball, soccer, football, baseball... what do all these sports have in common? In this quick "Moment of Science" from PBS, host Mandy Striph takes a look at why some balls bounce and others don't.

  3. The Science of Riding a Bicycle (08:45)

    This video by KQED Quest explains the deceptively complicated forces that allow bicyclers to balance on two wheels. As a fun bonus, they also take a look at some vintage bikes from the late 1800s.

  4. Cold Hard Science: Slapshot Physics in Slow Motion (07:00)

    Destin of Smarter Every Day, who's known for his amazing slow-motion videos, explores how energy transfer works, and gets to break some hockey sticks in the process.

  5. Shaun White Winter X Games Superpipe -- ESPN Sport Science (02:51)

    Professional snowboarder Shaun White utilizes a few specific physics techniques to achieve his remarkable jumps and tricks in the half pipe.

  6. The Physics Behind a Curveball (03:32)

    Ever wonder how a baseball player can throw a pitch that curves across the plate? Physics Girl shows how the Magnus Effect lets athletes curve the path of a ball.

  7. Science Xplained: Football Physics (02:23)

    Yale professor (and Edutopia contributor!) Ainissa Ramirez explains some of the science concepts that make football a unique American sport.

  8. Science of the Winter Olympic Games: Alpine Skiing and Vibration Damping (05:32)

    The National Science Foundation takes an inside look at the mechanical engineering that goes into building a pair of sports skis for a Paralympic athlete. You can also use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about differently-abled athletes!

  9. Could Sports Ever Replace War? (14:18)

    The Olympics were invented as a way to encourage friendly competition and help mediate conflict between different provinces in Greece. PBS Idea Channel asks the question: "Could Sports Ever Replace War?"

More Resources for Exploring Science and Sports

Whether you want to explore online, get out and play, or do some hands-on learning, there are many more resources for learning about how science and sports intersect.

If you have any resources of your own, share them by commenting below!

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