Wednesday, November 8, 2017

University Takes Upward Bound Students Inside the Science of Basketball

Everyone knows that basketball involves passing, dribbling and shooting. But how often do spectators watching a game think about all the science that goes into the way that ball moves as it bounces, soars and drops?

About 80 area high school students involved in Upward Bound got an introduction to the scientific principles at play in the game of basketball during “Inside Sports,” a Nov. 4 event organized through a collaboration of the University of New Orleans College of Engineering, College of Sciences, Privateers Athletics, UNO Trio programs and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Besides getting to scrimmage with Privateers basketball players at UNO’s Human Performance Center, the Upward Bound students participated in hands-on activities that demonstrated everything from how temperature affects the way a ball bounces to how energy converts from potential energy to kinetic energy. They also explored how muscles work by doing a “clothespin workout,” squeezing a clothespin repeatedly, and discussing what happens to an athlete’s body after intense workouts and basketball games.

In addition, presenters shared videos and slides to discuss and demonstrate such principles as the Magnus effect, parabolic arc and reaction time. A video showing pro basketball players LeBron James and Stephen Curry helped illustrate the ways an athlete’s size and speed can affect how they play the game.

Matt Tarr, vice president of research and economic programs at the University of New Orleans, said the Inside Sports event aims to bring science alive for all students. “We want to motivate high school students by showing them connections between athletics and concepts in science and engineering,” he said.

In addition to the science lessons, student-athletes from the reigning Southland Conference champion New Orleans Privateers men’s basketball team interacted with the Upward Bound students, sharing their own experiences of trying to balance their time between studies, practice and personal obligations.

UNO started the “Inside Sports” series with Upward Bound students in the spring, when they invited the teens to Maestri Field in April for lessons exploring the science behind baseball. Upward Bound is a federally funded educational program that aims to promote college readiness experiences to students from households where no one holds a college degree.