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National Science Foundation

The Science of NFL Football: About the Series

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In America, the autumn season means two things--back to school and back to football. To celebrate both events, NBC News' educational arm, NBC Learn, is teaming up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Football League (NFL) to release the "Science of NFL Football"--an informative 10-part video series that explores the science behind America's most beloved sport. Made especially for students and teachers as they head back to the classroom, these videos are aligned to lesson plans and national state education standards, and also are available to the public cost-free on www.NBCLearn.com and www.science360.gov.

Launching with the "Vectors," "Projectile Motion & Parabolas" and "Nutrition, Hydration & Health" videos, this joint project between NBC Learn and NSF will debut a new video story every week for the next seven weeks. The "Science of NFL Football"expands the partnership started last year with the "Science of the Olympic Winter Games"--a similar video series centered on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

This collaboration between NBC Learn and the NSF uses the universal appeal of football to drive an understanding of complicated scientific concepts. Students and teachers will see how the principles of science enable players to perform actions such as throwing a spiraled pass, blocking an opponent and scoring a touchdown. Current players and retirees who participated in the video series include:

    Former NFL Players:
  • Orlando Pace, Tackle
  • Hardy Nickerson, Linebacker
  • Antonio Freeman, Wide Receiver
  • Joey Harrington, Quarterback
  • Marshall Faulk, Running Back
  • Craig Hentrich, Punter
  • Morten Andersen, Place Kicker
  • Ryan Kuehl, Long Snapper
    Current NFL Players:
  • Hines Ward, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Antwaan Randle El, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Scott Paxson, Nose Tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Patrick Cobbs, Running Back, Miami Dolphins
  • Yeremiah Bell, Safety, Miami Dolphins
  • Jake Long, Tackle, Miami Dolphins
  • Dan Carpenter, Place Kicker, Miami Dolphins
  • Lousaka Polite, Running Back, Miami Dolphins

For each segment in the series, an NSF-supported scientist explains the selected scientific principle, while NFL athletes describe how these principles apply to their respective positions. Series scientists supported by NSF are: University of Florida aerospace engineer Tony Schmitz, Clemson University mechanical engineer John Ziegert, University of Maryland physicist Sylvester "Jim" Gates and Bryn Mawr College mathematician Rhonda Hughes. Also participating in the series are two scientists from the University of Connecticut, kinesiologist Douglas Casa and nutritionist Nancy Rodriguez.

The science is broken down by capturing the athletes' movements with a state-of-the-art, high-speed Phantom camera, which has the ability to capture movement at rates of up to 2,000 frames per second. These dynamic visuals allow for frame-by-frame illustrations of specific scientific principles such as Newton's Three Laws of Motion, kinematics and projectile motion. The Phantom video shoot was overseen by the NBC Olympics Production Group, which also provided research and technical support throughout the project. Other video episodes analyze the football science of the Pythagorean theorem, torque, center of mass and the unique shape of a football. Lessonopoly, Silicon Valley Education Foundation's online repository of open educational resources, will provide lesson plans for teachers that accompany the videos created by NBC Learn.

"To paraphrase what President Kennedy once said--when we watch or play a football game, we feel like we've taken part in it," said Ed Seidel, assistant director of NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, the organization that funded the project. "But in this series, we hope to achieve more than that. We want students to feel they've taken part in understanding the physical principles underlying the action on the field."

"NBC is extremely excited to offer this creative video series that combines science education and a sport that so many kids know and love," said Steve Capus, President of NBC News. "The opportunity to partner on these projects with strong organizations like the NSF and the NFL enables us to deliver high-quality content, cost-free to teachers to use in classrooms across the country."

"As children go back to school and the country gets back to football, we are pleased to partner with NBC and the NSF to bring our fans a new way to understand the game they love," said Tracy Perlman, NFL Vice President of Entertainment Marketing and Promotions.

Former NFL Saints running back and two-time Pro Bowl selection, Deuce McAllister, will be in New Orleans Thursday, September 9 to premiere the video series on NBC's "TODAY" show. McAllister joined the Saints as a first-round draft pick out of Ole Miss in 2001 and became the franchise's all-time leading rusher over the next eight seasons before retiring in January 2010. McAllister participated in the "Kinematics" video shoot, which analyzes the science of human motion through position, velocity and acceleration.

"It's exciting for the NFL to be a part of this effort to bring science from the football field to the classroom," said McAllister. "When we can energize our students to learn through physical fitness and sports, it's win-win for everyone."

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. Currently two unique offerings, iCue and NBC News Archives on Demand, give 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 (FY) 2010, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.


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