Inspiring Our Children to Pursue STEM Through the Olympics

The world's top athletes are competing at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Their talents and abilities are truly amazing. Their preparation and dedication to their sport and their country are inspiring. No doubt, millions of children watch these athletes with similar dreams of achieving athletic excellence. But as I previously wrote, the likelihood that any child will reach the pinnacle of sports is slim. However, there is great opportunity for our athletically passionate students to continue their love of sports through their careers. The fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) have as much to do with athletics as the athletes themselves, and the Olympics show us just how much STEM goes into making our athletes, and the fields they compete on, ready for competition.

From the half pipe to the ice rink and the snowboard to the speed skating suit, STEM experts make the 2014 Winter Games possible. Each Olympic season is better than the one before it -- the events are safer, the Olympians are faster, and the techniques are more precise. Materials scientists and chemical engineers are key to the innovations that allow our athletes to perform at the top of their game. The equipment our athletes use continues to get better, faster, stronger, more flexible and more durable. Materials scientists and chemical engineers are the brains behind skis and snowboards, designing them to withstand high speeds, vibration and torsion. Whether the athlete competes in the downhill or the slalom, the ski must be tailored to the particular sport. The skates used by speed skaters, figure skaters and hockey players are each different, and have evolved over time to allow the athletes to turn tight corners at full speed, perform a triple axel, or turn instantly in pursuit of a puck.

The clothing worn by our athletes is just as intricately designed and manufactured. To go faster, Olympians must don revolutionary suits made of special materials invented and designed by top scientists and engineers. The suits worn by speed skaters, for example, must counteract drag and take factors like wind resistance and air flow into account. But for athletes like ski jumpers, their suits must capture air to keep them aloft for as long as possible.

Click here to read the full blog on The Huffington Post.