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NBC News’ educational arm, NBC Learn, is teaming up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NFL to release the “Science of NFL Football”— a 10-part video series that explores the science behind America’s most beloved sport. Made especially for students and teachers as they head back to the classroom, these videos are aligned to lesson plans and national state education standards, and are available to the public cost-free on www.NBCLearn.com and www.science360.gov.

Launching with “Vectors,” “Projectile Motion & Parabolas,” and “Nutrition, Hydration & Health” videos, this joint project between NBC Learn and NSF will debut a new video story every week for the next seven weeks. The “Science of NFL Football” expands the partnership started last year with the “Science of the Olympic Winter Games” — a similar video series centered on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

This collaboration between NBC Learn and NSF uses the universal appeal of football to drive an understanding of complicated scientific concepts. Students and teachers will see how the principles of science enable players to perform actions such as throwing a spiraled pass, blocking an opponent and scoring a touchdown. Current players and retirees who participated in the video series include:

Former NFL Players:
Orlando Pace, Tackle
Hardy Nickerson, Linebacker
Antonio Freeman, Wide Receiver
Joey Harrington, Quarterback
Marshall Faulk, Running Back
Craig Hentrich, Punter
Morten Andersen, Place Kicker
Ryan Kuehl, Long Snapper
Deuce McAllister, Running Back

Current NFL Players:
Hines Ward, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antwaan Randle El, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott Paxson, Nose Tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
Patrick Cobbs, Running Back, Miami Dolphins
Yeremiah Bell, Safety, Miami Dolphins
Jake Long, Tackle, Miami Dolphins
Dan Carpenter, Place Kicker, Miami Dolphins
Lousaka Polite, Running Back, Miami Dolphins

For each piece of the series, an NSF-supported scientist explains the selected scientific principle, while NFL athletes describe how these principles apply to their respective positions. Series scientists supported by NSF are: University of Florida Aerospace Engineer Tony Schmitz, Clemson University Mechanical Engineer John Ziegert, University of Maryland Physicist Sylvester “Jim” Gates and Bryn Mawr College Mathematician Rhonda Hughes. Also participating in the series are two scientists from the University of Connecticut, Kinesiologist Douglas Casa and Nutritionist Nancy Rodriguez.

The science is broken down by capturing the athletes’ movements with a state-of-the-art, high-speed Phantom camera, which has the ability to capture movement at rates of up to 2,000 frames per second. These dynamic visuals allow for frame-by-frame illustrations of specific scientific principles such as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, kinematics and projectile motion. The Phantom video shoot was overseen by the NBC Olympics Production Group, which also provided research and technical support throughout the project. Other video episodes analyze the football science of the Pythagorean theorem, torque, center of mass and the unique shape of a football. Lessonopoly, Silicon Valley Education Foundation’s online repository of open educational resources, will provide lesson plans for teachers that accompany the videos created by NBC Learn.

“To paraphrase what President Kennedy once said— when we watch or play a football game, we feel like we’ve taken part in it,” said Ed Seidel, Assistant Director of NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, the organization that funded the project. “But in this series we hope to achieve more than that. We want students to feel they’ve taken part in understanding the physical principles underlying the action on the field.”

RBR-TVBR observation: With production values so high today, students can absorb 10 times as much about such things as science and history by watching a compelling program such as this, paired with the textbook. The days of 8 mm movies in the classroom are over—the content is no longer boring, but often just plain riveting. Programming on dozens of networks can and should be funneled into the classrooms for added educational support—from The History Channel to The Documentary Channel. And yes, advertising may well be there to support it.