Thursday, January 9th, 2014


As released by NBC News

New York, NY—January 9, 2014— NBC News’ educational arm, NBC Learn, has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to release the “Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games” — the latest installment in the Emmy Award-winning “Science of Sports” series. The enlightening 10-part video collection, narrated by NBC Olympics’ hockey host Liam McHugh, delves into the physics, engineering, chemistry, design and mathematics behind the world’s foremost sporting event.

The segments feature a variety of sports stories, as told by some of the world’s top athletes and record holders, along with perspectives and innovative research from leading NSF-supported engineers and scientists. NBC Olympics’ original production team including SVP, Original & Creative, Mark Levy and senior producer Philip Parrish collaborated with NBC Learn to create 2014 Olympic Winter Games edition of “Science of Sports.” The series’ diverse topics reveal how key engineering and science concepts and cutting-edge technology play an integral part in each athlete’s respective sport and help maximize their performance at the 2014 Sochi Games. The series is available cost-free to the public at and NSF websites (,

“We are very excited to release this special series, as the Sochi Olympics nears, and build on our innovative partnership with NSF,” said Soraya Gage, General Manager of NBC Learn. “Viewers will be able to watch and learn how science and design concepts play an essential role in the Olympic experience.”

“These stories demonstrate the interplay between sports and engineering, in areas from robotics to medical treatments,” said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for Engineering. “We hope the impressive feats of athletes and engineering researchers will engage and inspire young people, as they see how engineering technologies can change many facets of our lives.”

“The Olympics inspire us and capture our imaginations in many different ways,” added F. Fleming Crim, assistant director for NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate. “These videos build a connection between the wonder of athletic accomplishment and the wonder of scientific insight. They will both motivate and fascinate those who see them.”

New “Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games” videos released today include:

1. SCIENCE OF ICE: Brittany Bowe, J.R. Celski, Gracie Gold

The science that makes ice slippery also makes the Olympic Winter Games possible. But what is it that makes ice slippery? Ken Golden, a mathematician at the University of Utah, explains why the unique surface of ice enables the slide and glide of winter sports.

2. ALPINE SKIING & VIBRATION DAMPING: Heath Calhoun, Julia Mancuso

Kam Leang, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Tom Watson, of Watson Performance in Hood River, Ore., describe how advanced materials and engineering help reduce unwanted vibration, optimizing the performance of athletes.

 3. OLYMPIC MOVEMENT & ROBOTIC DESIGN: Julie Chu, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Shaun White

Professor Raffaello D’Andrea at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, describes how control systems engineering is laying the groundwork for the design of more “athletic” robots.

 4. FIGURE SKATING PHYSICS: Meryl Davis, Gracie Gold, Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner, Charlie White

Head of the Physics Department at the University of Michigan Brad Orr explains that good balance, or stability, is basic to everything a skater does–and that begins with understanding the center of mass.


At the 2014 Olympics, long track speed skater Shani Davis will be wearing what may be one of the most advanced competition suits ever engineered. Under Armour Innovation lab’s Kevin Haley and polymer scientist and engineer Sarah Morgan, of the University of Southern Mississippi, explain how competition suits help improve athlete performance by reducing friction and improving aerodynamics.


Jordan Gerton, a professor of physics at the University of Utah describes how Nick Goepper, a 2013 world champion slopestyle skier, will need to follow the laws of physics and rotational motion in order to nail his gravity-defying tricks in Goepper’s quest for Olympic gold in this freestyle skiing event debuting in Sochi.

 7. ENGINEERING FASTER & SAFER BOBSLEDS: Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton

Michael Scully, of BMW DesignWorks USA, and mechanical engineer Mont Hubbard, professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, explain the engineering challenges associated with making sleds faster and tracks safer.

 8. SCIENCE OF SNOW: Ted Ligety, Heather McPhie

Snow is an essential part of the 2014 Olympics. How it’s formed and how it reacts has been studied by scientists for centuries and continues to this day. Sarah Konrad, a former Winter Olympian who is also a glaciologist at the University of Wyoming, along with Cort Anastasio, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Davis, discuss how humidity and temperature help form snow.

 9. INJURY & RECOVERY: Lindsey Vonn

Biomedical engineer Cato Laurencin, at the University of Connecticut Health Center, describes his pioneering work in tissue regeneration, a field of research that could help athletes recover faster from knee ligament damage, the same injury that will cause alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn to miss the Sochi Olympics.


Mechanical engineer Brianno Coller, a professor at Northern Illinois University, explains how engineers design the half pipe so that snowboarder Shaun White can get more air time and allow him to perform tricks.

NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and its Directorate for Engineering funded the project. Each episode is accompanied by both science and engineering-focused lesson plans developed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for middle school and high school teachers.

“Teachers are always looking for new and innovative ways of cultivating student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said David Evans, NSTA executive director. “The ‘Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games’ videos provide teachers with an opportunity to connect their curriculum to real-world applications, which enhances student engagement and provides examples of how their learning is linked to events happening outside the classroom.”

In addition to its subscription resources, NBC Learn also produces original video collections that are made available for free on These include Emmy Award-winning videos produced in partnership with NSF, see: Science of the Winter Olympics, Science of the Summer Olympics, Science of NFL Football, Science of NHL Hockey, Science Behind The News, Changing Planet, Sustainability: Water, and Chemistry Now.


About NBC Learn

NBC Learn is the educational arm of NBC News dedicated to providing resources for students, teachers, and lifelong learners. The online resources NBC Learn has created for the education community leverages nearly 80 years of historic news coverage, documentary materials, and current news broadcasts. “NBC LEARN K-12” gives students and teachers access to thousands of video clips from the NBC News archives, including great historic moments – from the Great Depression to the Space Race to the latest political coverage. NBC Learn also offers primary source materials, lesson plans and classroom planning resources, and additional text and image resources from our content partners.

About the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2012, its budget was $7 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

For more information visit: NSF Home Page:

About NSTA

The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA’s current membership includes approximately 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.


For more information contact:

Brianne Beers
NBC News