Science Education Department (SED)

In today's world of competitive athletics, wins and losses can be decided over a period of a microsecond. Race finishing times are frequently less than one one-hundredth of a second apart. To find an edge in this highly competitive arena, athletes are turning to science for help.

SportSmarts is a nationwide educational initiative designed to help people better appreciate the relationship between science and sports in today's competitive athletic arena. SportSmarts encourages both athletes and nonathletes to learn about the role of science in sports, to open science to broad populations of sports enthusiasts who otherwise may not have an opportunity to learn about the role science plays in something near and dear to their lives.

This initiative seeks to improve the understanding of science through efforts in schools and via public outreach. SportSmarts builds on research in science education and teacher education conducted here at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to create educational programs that will help students, teachers, and adults improve their understanding and appreciation of science.

SportSmarts aims to increase the amount of television coverage devoted to science as part of regularly scheduled sports programming. SportSmarts collaborated with CBS affiliate WBZ-TV Channel 4 Boston in a pilot effort to create science coverage for the Boston Marathon (April 17, 2000). SportSmarts and WBZ highlighted one runner in this marathon, and tracked the progress of her training on air and on the Web in the months preceding the race. Stories were run about the science related to their training. The runner's vital signs (including heart rate and temperature) as well as other statistics (such as running pace) were monitored live on the Web during training sessions, and interpreted by Harvard physiologist Dr. Peter Weyand. During the marathon, the runner's vitals were displayed on air through radio telemetry and monitoring systems developed by using technologies pioneered and tested in space by NASA.

United States Olympic Committee and Newspapers In Education

SportSmarts collaborated with the United States Olympic Committee to create a series of newspaper supplements on the science of the Olympics. Distributed through Newspapers In Education, this program delivered millions of educational supplements to students in communities around the nation. Stories covered a variety of topics, including how athletic performance is affected by the change in seasons as athletes travel from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern, and how NASA research in aerodynamics is being used to improve swimsuits worn in the 2000 games.

In addition to a Web site, student kits, teacher guides, and videos were created. These materials are being distributed to teachers. Also, daily features were run during the course of the 2000 Summer Olympics Games in Sydney, Australia.

For more information, please contact Matthew Schnepps, mschnepps@cfa (add, (617) 495-7472


Section Photo