Science of the Winter Olympics: Competition Suits

You’re barely in the door of your local sporting goods store before you’re bombarded with displays of clothing designed specifically for every sport—even fishing! Are you better at any one of these sports when you’re wearing the specially designed togs? Maybe—maybe not. But in sports where gold medals can be determined by hundredths of a second, the well-placed seam can make a difference! Delve into the design of those seams and fabrics by watching Shani Davis & Engineering Competition Suits, part of the latest “Science of…” series from NBC Learn and partner NSF. In this series the 2014 Winter Olympic Games becomes a backdrop for furthering your STEM efforts.

NSTA joins the team as well, with video-connected STEM lesson plans brimming with ideas for science and engineering design inquiries and activities focusing on math and technology. Download the lesson plans at the links below. When you open them, you’ll see that some are labeled grades 4–12 and others are labeled 7–12. Note that the writers are always targeting middle school, but, depending on the sophistication of the video’s concepts, many of the connections, suggestions, and activities can be scaled up or down for your students.

Find the series, available cost-free, on and Leave a comment to let us know what you think. And if you end up making significant changes to the lesson plans, or have new ideas to add, let us know and we’ll be in touch with submission information.


Shani Davis & Engineering Competition Suits highlights speed skater Shani Davis as it discusses the factors that influence how the team at the Under Armour Innovation Lab design the competition suits that speed skaters wear.

Lesson Plans

Competition Suits Integration Guide spells out the STEM in the video and gives you mini-activities and ideas for research, teamwork, projects, and interdisciplinary connections.

Competition Suits Inquiry Guide models a science inquiry AND an engineering design inquiry focusing on the effects of friction.

Image of the Shani Davis in a 2009 speed-skating competition, courtesy of Onno Kluyt.

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