Posts Tagged ‘engineering’

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is currently hosting a special exhibit called 2theXtreme: MathAlive!  It combines math, science, and engineering with action sports, design, and pop culture.  In other words, quoting the MathAlive! site, it “answer[s] the age-old question: ‘Will I ever use all this math they’re teaching us?'”  Last month, I got to check it as part of the museum’s adult-only Social Science event, which also featured a BMX demo.

Even though MathAlive! is designed for a younger audience, it still contains some fun hands-on activities and educational tidbits for adults.  Unfortunately we’re too big to enjoy the rock climbing wall and comfortably sit on the stationary bike (I have short legs and it was still awkward for me).  Several of the games seemed easy, but they still required some thinking.  This is a math exhibit after all!

My favorite part of the exhibit was the skateboard design challenge.  You selected board length, truck placement, and wheel size in order to create the ideal board for an ollie.  While it could have used a better explanation as to why a design failed, it was a cool way to look at a math problem.  My second favorite module was the 360-degree camera if only because I got this little souvenir:

Scattered throughout the exhibit were videos of people who use math, which range from engineers to video game designers to skateboarders.

I appreciated the diversity, particularly with the female scientists and engineers shown.  Women in math and science rarely get any face time, which negatively impacts girls thinking of getting into STEM fields. so I’m glad the exhibit is doing its part to promote equality.

The boardercross game should have been fun and easy, but the board was really rickety.  I didn’t utilize the rails because I wanted to emulate the real snowboarding experience.  Unfortunately I crashed too much in trying to get my balance.  Although it’s been over a decade since I stepped foot on a board, I can’t imagine my balance being that bad (I dance and still occasionally skateboard).  That was probably the most disappointing aspect of the exhibit for me.  Nevertheless the exhibit contained more ups than downs; just remember that it’s for kids and during regular hours, you’ll probably have to fight them to give each section a try.

Because I had to buy separate tickets for MathAlive!, I spent a lot of time there and didn’t get to see other aspects of Social Science.  I did catch the second freestyle BMX demo by BMX Pros Trick Team.  The riders have my admiration because not only did some of them come from doing demos all day at the State Fair, but they had to deal with low light and a moderately energetic (and somewhat inebriated) crowd.  Nevertheless, they still pulled out some of the big tricks.

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I tried to take photos, but it was too dark.

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I had quite a few gripes about both the U.S. and Canadian coverage of Olympic snowboarding and freeskiing (and apparently my friends did as well).  It highlighted the inequality that’s rampant in both action sports and media, but that’s a post for another day.  Right now I want to focus on one of the good things that came out of this: the increased opportunity to explore the science behind skiing and snowboarding.  This is a great way to get action sports fans interested in science and scientists interested in action sports.

NBC paired with the National Science Foundation to create a series videos exploring the Science and Engineering of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  They’d done a similar series in 2010, but now they have gone past just a cursory coverage of sports, looking at halfpipe engineering and snow.  There’s also the addition of slopestyle skiing.

If you’re subscribed to The New York Times, you can get access to their interactive stories, which break down gold medal-winning runs and the keys to success.  They’re definitely worth checking out just for the composite photography.  Those without a subscription can catch some of the videos on Hulu.

The blog Physics Buzz did a podcast about snowboarding.  They explained the triple cork better than I ever did, and there’s a link to a post that breaks down the physics of one.

We can’t forget about the Paralympians, especially with the debut of boardcross this year.   Live Science shared an article about the technology that helps these athletes do things their able-bodied peers can do.  I want to take this time to congratulate Evan Strong for grabbing the first U.S. Paralympic gold in Sochi, being a part of the American sweep in men’s boardercross with Michael Shea and Keith Gabel, and making his way onto an upcoming Wheaties box:

Wheaties/Evan Strong

Finally, I came across a surprising mention to snowboarding while listening to the linguistic podcast, A Way with Words.  The term “wind down the windows” caught the attention of host Martha Barnette because it’s becoming a rather dated image (I remember winding down the windows in my dad’s old pick-up as a little kid).  It’s been pretty cool seeing and hearing snowboarding and freeskiing pop up in the most unexpected places.