“RVA STEM in Sports” premiers Friday

Muktaru Jalloh
Staff Writer

In an attempt to find a crossroads between athletics and STEM education, the VCU Center for Sports Leadership program is hosting its first ever RVA Stem in Sports event this Friday.

The event, which is also sponsored by the MathScience Innovation Center, the Science Museum of Virginia and others, will take place at the Siegel Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and host 400 students from Richmond City and Henrico County Public Schools.

With various stations set at the Basketball Development Center, adjacent to the Siegel Center arena, partners will be showing how to connect STEM to various facets of sports.

While many students love sports, there’s still efforts being made to increase interest in STEM education. While blame for this deficiency is attributed to many things, it remains that students learn better by applying information and what they learn to real world concepts.

The program tries to make that happen through athletics, which attracts a wide range of students, simultaneously generating opportunities for many fields of study.

“Instead of being in class getting a boring lesson, we want to get them engaged and to think science is cool,” said Chaz Coleman, a VCU graduate student in the program. “You can still be involved in sports through engineering, design, anything science related, not just by playing.”

A Richmond native who played football at St. Vincent College, Coleman is hopeful that the event opens the eyes of many students attending.

Often times, he said students feel as though that the only gateway to sports is by actually playing. These students fail to see the other ways they can influence sports without actually having to play. Whether it is in business, administration, engineering or technology realm, there are a slew of opportunities for people in sports outside of playing.

Thus, the one-day event looks to make students realize this by showcasing various stations that document how sport technologies relate and originate from what they learn in class – specifically STEM related subject matters.

With all of the students being seventh graders of urban backgrounds, the organizers believe they have a chance to make serious improvements in the poor education system today. Many students of low socioeconomic and minority backgrounds aren’t being given the proper access and opportunity necessary for a solid education, caused a huge disconnect within student populations.

“As far as STEM purposes, I think we’re definitely lacking in that department,” Coleman said. “Other countries are way ahead of us. Kids, by the time they reach high school, just aren’t interested in science anymore.”

He said the event also looks to reverse the stereotype of the “dumb jock,” where students aren’t capable of being involved in both athletics and academics.

“The stereotype that athletes aren’t smart leads many to just aim for scholarship offers rather than focusing on their academics,” Coleman said. “They’re pushed through just because they’re good at a sport, but professional sport careers aren’t long and there’s a serious need for a backup plan.”

In an effort to also show the behind the scene aspects of many of the sports that students love and the technology involved, the event will features student athletes along with staff members that hold strength and conditioning and coaching capacities. With 10-minute intervals, each student group will rotate to each station and get a chance to connect STEM to various sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball, racing and tennis.

Coleman will be showcasing the Adidas miCoach ball, which provides instant feedback to soccer players by gauging several metrics of each kick, such as the speed of the ball, strength of their kick, the tracking of rotations and flight paths.

After the event, students will be given gift bags that will have magazines, treats and networking information. If a particular student would like to follow up on a station that they found particularly interesting, the program coordinators will bridge the student to whomever administered the station.

“The overall goal is to increase awareness and interest in STEM. There’s 400 students coming. If half of the students get something out of it, then we’ll be more than fine with that. It’s a great way for the students to get out of the classroom, go on a field trip to VCU and experience the event.”

“It’s all about the students and making it fun and interactive for them. Who knows, if the science museum picks it up as an exhibit, we’d feel honored that we started it as students. Hopefully, it grows and reaches a bigger population.”

Staff Writer, Muktaru Jalloh

Muktaru Jalloh, photo by Brooke MarshMuktaru is a senior double majoring in English and political science with a minor in media studies. Topic areas Muktaru enjoys covering include music, sports, pop culture and politics. // Twitter | Facebook

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