Summer Olympics STEM Activities & Challenges

Finding ways to connect students’ education to current events is a great way to increase lesson engagement. With the Paris 2024 Olympics coming up, facilitators and parents can use this exciting worldwide event to get students engaged in STEM learning. These can be used during summer camps or at home to improve STEM literacy and help students avoid the summer slump. 

In this article, we will explore STEM activities and challenges related to the Summer Olympics.

Track and Field STEM Challenges

Track and field is a very popular portion of the Summer Olympics. Connecting STEM challenges and activities to these sporting events can help students connect classroom lessons to real-world scenarios and applications. 

Below are Track and Field STEM activity ideas:

  • Build a Mini Catapult: Students will explore the principles of force and trajectory by building a catapult and measuring how far different objects travel. This lesson also introduces students to the Engineering Design Process (EDP), teaching students resilience and the importance of learning from their mistakes and trying again.
  • Javelin Throw Challenge: To mimic the javelin throw, students will use straws or other materials to design a mini javelin and measure the distances they can be thrown.
  • High Jump Physics: In this lesson, students will investigate the mechanics and techniques of the high jump by creating a model to demonstrate the principles. If space allows, students can take this lesson outside afterward to see how their findings can relate to their own high jump performance.

Aquatic Sports STEM Activities

The Summer Olympics include a variety of water sports, which are highly mechanical and naturally connect closely to STEM concepts, such as buoyancy, resistance, and hydrodynamics. Below are aquatic sport-focused STEM activities that are easy to implement with students:

  • Kayak Design Challenge: Nothing says summer like a kayak STEM activity. In this lesson, students will design and build a mini kayak, which will teach them key lessons about buoyancy and stability. If this lesson is done in a group, students can compare their kayak designs and how they change the overall effectiveness of the boat.
  • The Science of Swimming: Students will conduct experiments to understand resistance and streamline shapes in water. If students have access to a pool, this STEM lesson is most effectively done if each popular swim move is evaluated and then done by each student. This will get students both physically and mentally active, which has been proven to increase lesson engagement. 
  • Surfing STEM Challenge: During this STEM surfing lesson, students will design a model surfboard that can ride a simulated wave. Students then study the physics of waves and the impact wave size has on surfer potential and performance. 

Team Sports and STEM

Team sports, such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball, are popular, highly watched portions of the Summer Olympics. These games feature many of children’s favorite athletes across the globe. This high engagement makes it the perfect, organic avenue to get students engaged in STEM learning this summer. Below are three team sport-related STEM activities students will love provided by STEM Sports®:

  • Successful Serving: In STEM Volleyball, students will predict their chances of a successful serve by determining the larger fraction. Students will write a mathematical expression by using greater than and less than symbols to order the chances of making a successful serve with all types of volleyballs. As a bonus to this lesson, students can calculate the success of each Olympic volleyball player’s serve, comparing each team member and team.
  • Forces in Basketball: During a lesson in STEM Basketball, students conduct a controlled experiment to determine the change in motion by measuring the number of bounces and the height of the first bounce. Students will predict how gravity/motion will affect/change the ball if it is dropped at a higher or lower height. This lesson can be done alongside Summer Olympics basketball games, where students can connect their findings to each game.
  • Calculating Calories and Heart Rate: In STEM Soccer, students will predict and calculate calories burned during gameplay by using multiplication and division. Students then compare values by using calculations and descriptions.

Gymnastics and Artistic Sports STEM Projects

Gymnastics is one of the more artistic, creative portions of the Olympics. Most people love to watch the gymnasts complete their floor and beam routines. But, what people do not know is how gymnastics connects to STEM learning concepts. 

Here are STEM projects that relate to gymnastics, diving, and other artistic areas of the Summer Olympics. 

  • Balance Beam Challenge: Students will create a model balance beam and explore the concepts of balance and center of gravity. If students have access to an outdoor play area that has a balance beam, they can test their theories and their own balancing skills in real time. 
  • Rotational Motion in Gymnastics: Using spinning tops, students will demonstrate and understand the principles of rotational motion and angular momentum. This lesson can be facilitated in conjunction with the Summer Olympic floor acts, where students can use their knowledge of motion and momentum to evaluate their favorite Olympians. 
  • Diving Board Physics: In this lesson, students investigate the mechanics of diving. First, they will study the purposeful design of a diving board and then evaluate how this design impacts the divers stylistic option and performance in each move. 

Cycling and Racing STEM Activities

There will be five (5) forms of cycling in the Summer 2024 Olympics: BMX freestyle, BMX racing, mountain biking, road cycling, and track cycling. The wide variety of cycling types means that a large group of students will likely be interested in one or more of these areas. 

Below are cycling and racing-related STEM activities that will get students both mentally and physically engaged this summer:

  • Pedal, Coast, and Balance Challenge: In STEM Bike, students will experiment with the functionality and energy of a bike by riding both uphill and downhill. Students will then explore and define the relationship between the velocity and energy of a bike. This lesson can be directly connected to the Summer Olympics road cycling.
  • Understanding Aerodynamics: In this aerodynamics-focused lesson, students conduct experiments to see how different shapes and materials affect air resistance. This activity is ideal for large groups of students and is easy to implement with minimal supplies. 

Bringing the Olympics to the Classroom and Home

By incorporating Olympics-themed lessons into a student’s STEM curricula, parents, educators, and facilitators can help students connect what they are learning to real-life scenarios. This ability to connect classroom learning to outside experiences and applications is a key skill that will help students comprehend concepts more effectively, leading to better performance on exams. 

The upcoming Summer Olympics poses a unique opportunity since this highly watched, engaging event can be so easily and seamlessly connected to STEM learning. If you are a parent or educator looking to connect STEM to sports this summer, click here to request a sample. 

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