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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 18:36 GMT
Putting sport into science
Dr Steve Haake with pupil
Scientists want to show applications
Scientists are using sporting heroes like David Beckham to try to spark children's interest in science and technology.

With the numbers of children opting to study science at A-level in decline, experts are trying new ways to get their interest.

In a series of lectures across the UK, secondary school children are being shown key links between sporting success and technology.

Olympic gold medallist and physics graduate, Jonathan Edwards, is backing the initiative: "The laws of physics are at work in all sports, and any edge athletes can gain that is within the rules could make the difference between success and failure."

Boardman bike

The lectures are part of a campaign called Engineering in the Olympics, created by the Engineering and Technology Board to try to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers through sport.

Dr Steve Haake from Sheffield University is leading the lecture tour, which kicked off at the Science Museum in London on 25 February.

"There is a combination of factors at play when athletes achieve sporting success.

"The individual athlete obviously has to have necessary skill and determination to succeed, but the help of science and technology can be significant," he said.

"Everyone remembers the Lotus bike Chris Boardman used to win Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992.

"In the aftermath of that win, Chris acknowledged that the new bike had been a major factor in propelling him to victory."

Beckham's penalty

He said he used the examples of the Olympic sports of running, the pole vault and the javelin to highlight the way sports had been influenced by technology.

How improvements to timing for example, made it easier to place runners.

And how the introduction of carbon-fibre javelins meant they landed tip-first instead of flat and cut the distance they could be thrown, as well as the potential for accidents.

"We also talk about David Beckham's penalty and about Paralympics wheelchair racing," said Dr Haake.

"Our goal is to enthuse kids about science, technology and physics through sport.

"A lot of kids get turned off by the idea of a physics lecture, but this shows them practical uses of science and technology."

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