What do sport and STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have in common? Is sport science actually part of STEM? On one hand, employers seek highly qualified professionals with skills in STEM fields. On the other hand, there are simply not enough students graduating in these areas. Can sports save STEM careers and fill this gap?
It might not be apparent at first glance, but sports are an integral part of the STEM field. Careers in sports sciences are connected with every aspect of sports, from building stadiums, to coaching, video analysis, and designing the fastest formula F1. How can sports be used as a motivating factor for students to pursue careers in these fields?
Learning via sports is inspiring especially when STEM topics are introduced at an early age. 3D printing of sport equipment, designing new materials for the fastest uniforms in speed skating, understanding aerodynamics, or figuring out how to curve the ball while playing baseball are just a few examples of the STEM/sports connection. Sport scientists can research the best recovery for a professional athlete or how to train in order to achieve optimal results.
Kids and STEM exposure
This type of learning can spark interest in kids and make them curious about STEM careers in order to fill the employment gap in the long run. There are many programs, initiatives, after-school programs, summer camps and non-profits focusing on STEM in sports. In addition, there are plenty of computer programs using sports to make STEM more appealing for students. These use sports-themed challenges incorporating math, science or engineering for metric conversions, dynamics, vectors, forces, rounding, percentages, statistical analysis or bar graphs. With hands-on experience, students use these skills while having fun. Rather than giving children formulas to memorize, the goal would be to introduce problems to solve and see what happens.
One of the national initiatives is called NASA STEM Mania. In order to bring STEM education and real-life examples closer to students from kindergarten through 12th grade students, NASA has launched a free learning virtual program. It allows students and teachers to “interact virtually with NASA subject matter experts on a variety of topics”, while using engineering examples in the classroom. For example, they have shown astronauts and sports clips from the International Space Station and demonstrated how to become an Orion virtual crew member utilizing NASA’s Digital Learning Network.
Careers in Sports
Sports do not only exist on the soccer field, swimming pool or in the gymnasium. Rather, sports incorporate everything that is going on during the action as well as in the “behind the scenes” operations. In many cases, STEM professionals are an essential part of the athlete’s “winning formula for success” in sports.
These STEM careers in sports are among the most essential for an athlete’s or team’s performance:
- Sports Engineer
- Physical therapist
- Coach, Head coach
- Personal trainer
- Sports statistician
- Sport psychologist
- Biochemical engineer
- Sports scientist
- Material designers
- 3D Printing engineers