"Golf and Science" Initiative Takes A Swing at Education

Stem Zone Story

Young fans enjoy interactive exhibits on the science of golf in the Chevron STEM Zone at Merion.  (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

By Stephanie Breslof, USGA

ARDMORE, Pa. – Three-year-old Charlie Rotzell of Nazareth, Pa., stood on the tee at the virtual shot exhibit at Chevron and NBC Learn’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Program, “Science of Golf.” He held a driver nearly as tall as he was, firmly planted his feet and took a swing. The virtual ball sailed through the air, took a sharp hook and dropped into a water hazard. On his second attempt, the ball flew out of bounds.

Finally, he was handed a second driver – of a slightly different length – and gave it another go. This time, the ball landed neatly on the fairway, and the crowd that had gathered behind him cheered in response.

The change in club length made all the difference for Charlie, proving that club design, which is rooted in subjects such as math, engineering and physics, plays a huge role in how the game of golf is played. In fact, that is just what STEM Program sponsors Chevron, the USGA and NBC Learn aim to teach youngsters.

“[The program] is trying to inspire careers in the STEM field, and different ways that kids can get involved,” said Bianca LaRussa, program and events manager at Chevron. “[‘Science of Golf’] teaches how they can be interested in science and still work in the sports field, and how the athletes they watch on TV or idolize or look up to are intuitive scientists without even knowing it.”

“Science of Golf” is an informative, 10-part video series narrated by NBC Sports’ lead play-by-play anchor Dan Hicks that explores STEM topics through the lens of one of America’s iconic sports. Made especially for use in the classroom, the videos are aligned to lesson plans and national state education standards, and are available to the public online at no cost.

Through the video series, students and teachers can see how the principles of science are as important to the game as tees, clubs, balls and a good swing. “Science of Golf” uses the game to help engage, inspire and educate students, from kindergarten through college.

Fourteen school districts across the country were selected to receive access to these resources, and LaRussa says the program has received acclaim from parents, teachers and students alike.

“[From kids], we’ve had two main responses,” she says. “There are kids that come in here thinking this is about golf … and then they’re like ‘Oh wait, there’s science in golf.’ And then there are the kids that go, ‘I see a lot of chalkboards, this looks like school,’ and then [they get involved] and they think ‘Oh wait, it’s actually really fun.’

“From parents and teachers, it has been really similar. We have an exhibit where it’s a gravity ball drop, and we had a teacher who was saying she’d been working for months and months trying to get her kids to understand the concept behind gravity. She just needed this hands-on demonstration of it and it just kind of clicked with them.”

Other exhibits, such as the broadcast station – where youngsters have the opportunity to play a broadcaster, reading from a teleprompter and recording the video to post on YouTube – do more than teach about science; they help youngsters gain confidence and perhaps see themselves in a future career in sports.

“It brings out kids who are shy,” said LaRussa of the broadcast station. “You can kind of see that spark – that inspiration – to look deeper into it because it triggers this [attitude], ‘Oh wait, I can do this. This thing that I see sportscasters do all the time … there’s a screen behind me and now I’m on the green, too.’ You can see the spark in their eyes, and it’s pretty cool.”

Stephanie Breslof is the USGA's summer online/editorial intern. Email her at sbreslof@usga.org.

 

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