July 25, 2012

Video of the Week: Science of the Olympics

by Christine Hoekenga

Sarah Robles with Barbell

In addition to being an outstanding athlete, Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles is a model for scientists working in biomimitics. Image courtesy: NBC Universal

Only two days, one hour, and one minute to go until the 2012 Summer Olympic Games kick off in London. We tend to think of the Olympics as a contest of strength, endurance, and human will–and indeed it is. But there’s another, less-talked-about aspect of the games that has major implications for athletes in training and competition: science.  From designing “anti-gravity” training treadmills and high-impact safety helmets to making fluid dynamics work for an athlete in the pool, science and engineering are at work behind the scenes in all of our favorite Olympic sports.

Our video of the week looks at how scientists studying biomimitics (the practice of using nature as a model to solve engineering problems) can apply techniques used by champion weightlifter Sarah Robles to the development of robotic arms.  It’s one of ten videos in the new series “Science of the Olympic Games: Engineering in Sports” produced by the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn. The other nine videos cover topics ranging from the biomechanics of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s impressive speed to the importance of accuracy and precision in timekeeping.


Congratulations and best of luck to all the athletes competing in London this summer!

Christine Hoekenga

Written by

Christine is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist, specializing in science and nature. She holds an Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Media Studies and a Master's of Science Writing. She has been working in science communication and education for nearly a decade as a journalist, an organizer for conservation groups, and a museum educator. Before joining the Visionlearning team, she served as the New Media and Online Community Manager for the Webby award-winning Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Christine is assisting Visionlearning with developing new modules and glossary terms, managing the blog, and outreach through social media.

The views expressed above do not necessarily represent those of Visionlearning or our funding agencies.