In Sochi, Davis and other athletes will wear advanced competition suits to reduce friction and drag.
Credit: NSF/NBC Learn.
This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
How do Olympic athletes inspire the design of robots? What makes ice the right grade of slippery for speed skaters? How are engineers building faster and safer bobsleds? These are just some of the questions explored in a new video series that offers a fascinating and unusual perspective on the winter Olympics — that of science and engineering.
One of the videos, featuring speed skater Shani Davis, focuses on high-tech apparel that helps athletes be as competitive as possible. In the video, Under Armour Innovation Lab's Kevin Haley and polymer scientist and engineer Sarah Morgan of the University of Southern Mississippi explain how the company's competition suits help athletes by improving their aerodynamics. "You want something that really slips through the air and doesn't add any wind resistance, as well as any resistance to your limbs as you move along the track," Haley says.
At the Sochi games, Davis will wear one of the most advanced competition suits ever engineered — two years in the making — composed of nylon, spandex and polyester, and sewn in such a way so as to reduce drag and friction. Davis won the 10,000-meter event in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics; he has a chance to become the first U.S. man to win a gold medal in the same event in three consecutive Olympic Winter Games.
Another video, "Injury and Recovery," highlights downhill skier Lindsey Vonn prior to her announcement that she wouldn't be able to compete in Sochi. This video also covers the work of Cato Laurencin, an orthopedic surgeon and biomedical engineer at the University of Connecticut Health Center, who specializes in knee and shoulder reconstruction. His cutting edge work in "regenerative engineering" combines advanced materials science, stem cell science and developmental biology to regenerate muscles, ligaments and tendons.
The 10 video titles include:
- Science of ice: Britanny Bowe, J.R. Celski, Gracie Gold
- Alpine skiing and vibration damping: Heath Calhoun, Julia Mancuso
- Olympic movement and robotic design: Julie Chu, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Shaun White
- Figure skating physics: Meryl Davis, Gracie Gold, Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner, Charlie White
- Engineering competition suits: Shani Davis
- Physics of slopestyle skiing: Nick Goepper
- Engineering faster and safer bobsleds: Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton
- Science of snow: Ted Ligety, Heather McPhie
- Injury and recovery: Lindsey Vonn
- Engineering the half pipe: Shaun White
The videos are narrated by NBC Sports' Liam McHugh.
Each episode is available free to teachers, students and the public at NBCLearn.com and NSF websites (http://nsf.gov, Science360.gov), accompanied by lesson plans developed by the National Science Teachers Association for middle and high-school teachers.
Editor's Note: The researchers depicted in Behind the Scenes articles have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Behind the Scenes Archive.