SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt - A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12) Print

Objective:

Framework for K–12 Science Education: PS2.A Forces and Motion, PS2.B: Types of Interactions, LS1.A: Structure and Function, ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions, ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution


Introduction Notes:

Science of the Summer Olympics

The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt

A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning Information

 

About the Video

Mechanical engineers Dr. Anette Hosoi (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Samuel Hamner (Stanford University) study Usain Bolt’s physical structure to help determine how he is able to run so fast. Their findings might enable them to develop solutions for people with movement disorders or to optimize the performance of athletes.

 

0:00     0:12     Series opening

0:13     0:59     Introducing Usain Bolt

1:00     1:23     Anette Hosoi describing the uniqueness of Usain’s abilities

1:24     1:58     Usain’s physical characteristics and stride length

1:59     2:17     Usain’s physical characteristics and mass

2:18     2:41     Influence of muscle strength on force

2:42     3:23     Samuel Hamner’s reasons for studying Usain

3:24     4:09     Running stance phase

4:10     4:27     Running flight phase

4:28     4:48     Electrical signals, and coordination

4:49     5:14     Everything coming together for Usain

5:15     5:24     Closing credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Connect to Science

Framework for K–12 Science Education  PS2.A Forces and Motion

                                                                    PS2.B: Types of Interactions

                                                                    LS1.A: Structure and Function

Related Science Concepts

         Force and the resultant pressure on a surface

         Action and reaction forces (running on a track)

         Speed and acceleration of an object (a human body)

         Motion and how human movements result in motion

         Relationship of weight and mass

         Muscular system and how it moves the human body

         Reaction time

         Gene expression due to heredity and environment

 

(page 1)

 

Connect to Engineering

Framework for K–12 Science Education

      ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

      ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

      ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

 

Engineering in Action

Mechanical engineers create and build mechanical devices, while biomechanical engineers blend traditional engineering techniques with biological science and medicine.  Today, many mechanical engineers are lending their expertise to the analysis of living systems. The development of a prosthetic tail for Winter, a dolphin at the Clearwater (Florida) Marine Aquarium, is just one example.  Biomimicry – such as modeling the nosecone of a Japanese bullet train after a kingfisher’s beak, so the train is quieter as it emerges from tunnels – is a growing field as well.

 

Given a problem, engineers begin the search for a solution by analyzing what they have to work with.  In the case of Usain Bolt, Samuel Hamner analyzes the physical attributes of Usain’s body as well as how various parts of his body work together to accomplish his goals.  Without being able to observe Usain’s motion—how his bones and muscles move—it would be impossible to improve his motion through an engineering process.  Unlike physical mechanical engineering solutions, which can be arrived at through manipulating physical factors, biological engineering problems begin with the genetics of the individual (human or other organism) that is the focus of the problem.  While other constraints can influence the solution, first and foremost the engineering solution has to work within the genetic constraints.

 

Take Action with Students

With students, choose a simple action – such as throwing a ball, moving from a standing to a sitting position, or snapping fingers. Have students analyze the motion through descriptions or sketches. Students with smartphones might take a series of photographs or video they can replay in slow motion. Then elicit from students how the motion might change if the person was taller, more massive, or older and suffered from arthritic joints.  How would they redesign the action to enable that person to do it?

 

Inquiry Outline for Teachers

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 6.

 

Explore Understanding

Do an Internet search for the phrase "animals in motion" or " running motion of animals" and share images with students.  Elicit from students how these animals are able to move—to run fast, lumber along, or hop.  Use prompts such as the following to start students talking.

         These animals are all alike in that….

         The body systems involved in movement of these animals are….

         Bones are connected to one another by….

 

(page 2)

 

         Bones move at _____ because….

         Muscles move bones by….

 

Show the video SOTSO: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt.

 

Focus the discussion on how Usain’s bones and muscles work together, at the behest of his nervous system, to allow him to sprint as quickly as he can. Encourage students to jot down points about Usain’s motion as they watch the video, and then discuss the video using prompts such as the following:

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         The expert in the video claimed that _____ because….

         Usain is not expected to run so fast because….

         Because Usain is bigger, he has to compensate by….

         The stance phase in running differs from the flight phase by….

         I would like to know more about….

         I would do research to find out more about….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: The video makes me think about these questions…. Then have students work in small groups to list questions they have about how humans or other animals move—quickly, in predictable ways, and so on. Then groups should choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. Some examples include the following:

         How does stride length impact a runner’s speed?

         How does the running action of other animals compare to that of humans?

         Is the number of muscles or the strength of muscles the more important factor?

         Does the height off the ground during the flight phase make a difference?

         How does leg length impact the running action?

         Is Usain just quicker off the starting blocks than other runners?

         Could Usain be just as fast if he did not start the race in starting blocks?

 

 

Design Investigations

Choose one of these two options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level.

 

Open Choice Approach (Copy Master pages 6-7)

Small groups might join together to agree on one question for which they will explore the answer, or each small group might explore something different.  Students should brainstorm what they would have to do to answer the selected question. Then work with students to develop safe procedures that control variables and make accurate measurements. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         The variable I will test is….

         The variables I will control are….

         The steps I will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely I will….

 

(page 3)

 

Focused Approach (Copy Master pages 7–9)

The following exemplifies how students might investigate a question about how the strength of muscles impacts an action, such as:  How does the strength of a muscle change the way a bone moves?

1.      Ask students questions such as the following to spark their thinking.

         How are Usain’s leg muscles involved in his running?

         How does Usain maintain his strength?

         How do the muscles cause bones to move?

         How might you model the bones in the leg or arm?

         How are bones involved in movement joined together?

2.      Students might choose to create a model of two bones connected at a joint and show how the bones move under the pull of model muscles. If so, give them free rein in deciding how to build their models and demonstrate the actions. Some might use various thicknesses of rubber bands as muscles to move bones constructed of craft sticks, rulers, or cardboard tubes. Examining this hinge model might help students refine their questions or lead to new questions that they should record for later exploration.

3.      Ensure that students brainstorm variables and determine which can be controlled and which cannot.  Students should be aware that “bones” of different lengths, and the positions at which the “muscles” are placed, changes the mechanical advantage of the levers they’ve constructed.  As needed, help them focus on their chosen variable in each trial.  Use prompts such as the following:

         I am testing variables by….

         I am controlling variables by….

4.      Students should determine a method by which they can measure the resultant force created by muscles of different sizes.  For example, students might pull apart the model bones to a predetermined distance that stretches the rubber band, and then let go. They might qualitatively observe what happens and make comparisons. Students could also allow the moving bone to strike a bal,l and measure how far that ball moves for quantitative data. They could also use a force sensor to measure the applied force. Use prompts with students such as:

         I will create our bones and joint models from….

         I will pull the bones apart _____ centimeters because the rubber bands….

         I will measure the force imparted by different strengths of muscles by….

         I predict that if I follow these steps….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

5.      Students might continue their investigation by focusing on how the number of muscles involved in an action impacts the result, or another related question of their own.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, ensure that they record their observations.  As needed, suggest ways they might organize their data using tables or graphs. Students should analyze their data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence their data shows. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… I claim… because….

 

An example regarding the effect of muscle size on force generated might be the following:

 

(page 4)

 

As evidenced bya thicker rubber band moving a ball further than a thinner one of the same diameter, I claim that stronger muscles enable bones to move more forcefully than weaker ones because muscles can only contract, and the thicker rubber band contracts more forcefully, moving the bone more forcefully.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with those of others—such as classmates who investigated the same or a similar question, material they found on the Internet, an expert they chose to interview, or their textbook. Remind students to credit original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as the following:

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following.

My ideas are similar to those of the other groups. Although different groups used different materials and measured the resultant force differently, we all found that the stronger muscle made the bone move more forcefully or quickly.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or about what they know now that they didn’t before. Have students respond to one of the prompts in writing and then ask volunteers to share with the class, or have partners exchange responses and ask questions of each other. Encourage reflection using prompts such as the following:

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         The advantages and limitations of my model are….

         As I worked on this project, I wish I had spent more time on....

         If I would have changed _____ , my investigation would have been more….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 10.

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Visualize a Concept:  A 25-second segment beginning at approximately 1:59 relates the components of an action-reaction force between Usain and the track.  Use this as a practical application of the concept during a discussion of Newton’s three laws of motion.

 

Homework:  The night before a class discussion on body systems or speed, acceleration, and action-reaction,  instruct students to watch the video at least twice and make notes about aspects that interest them.  In small groups, students might use their notes to generate questions for inquiry activities.

 

(page 5)

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these E’s:

Explain: Use the video to explain to students how the body systems interact to perform complex movements very quickly.  Point out how not only the muscular and skeletal systems are involved, but also the nervous system, which  supplies the signal for muscle fibers to contract; the respiratory and circulatory systems, which  supply the oxygen and will clean away waste products of anaerobic respiration in the muscle cells; and the digestive system, which supplies the fuel.

Elaborate:  Use the video to extend understanding about the interaction of heredity and environment in humans.  Students can hypothesize how Usain and other athletes or celebrities with specific physical attributes – such as large muscles or flexible limbs – are impacted by training regimes and nutrition.

 

Connect to … Social Studies

Geography and Economics of Jamaica:  One of 204 countries participating in the 2012 London games, this small country, about twice the size of the state of Delaware, sits about 900 kilometers (560 miles) southeast of Miami. Tourism is a major part of Jamaica’s economy. Encourage interested students to find out more about Jamaica.  Suggest they create a travel brochure, webquest, or other presentation from Usain Bolt’s perspective.

 

Use Video in Assessment

To assess student understanding of the science behind Usain’s sprinting prowess, show the video segment beginning at 4:49 through Usain’s quote: “I mean, for me it's my strength and the length of my stride – everything comes together, which makes it look so superb.”  Then give the following instructions:  Write a few sentences that explain what creates Usain’s strength and stride that enable him to excel in sprinting.

 

 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt

Use this guide to investigate a question about Usain Bolt, or how a movement might be improved, or how bones and muscles work together. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose one question. How can you answer it?  Brainstorm with your teammates.  Write a procedure that controls variables and makes accurate measurements.  Add safety precautions as needed.

         The constraints I will work within are….

         The variable I will test is….

         The variables I will control are….

         The steps I will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely I will….

 

(page 6)

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations.  Organize your data in tables or graphs as appropriate.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question; do research on the Internet or talk with an expert.  How do your findings compare?  Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         The advantages and limitations of my model are….

         As I worked on this project, I wish I had spent more time on....

         If I would have changed _____ my investigation would have been more….

 

 

 

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt

Use this guide to investigate a question about how the muscle strength impacts an action. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How does the strength of a muscle change the way a bone moves?

 

Design Investigations

How can you answer your question? Brainstorm solutions with your teammates.  Write a procedure that will enable you to meet the constraints.  Add safety precautions as needed. For example, you would need to measure a normal stride length and then change it. How could you do that?

 

(page 7)

 

         I will create my bones and joint model from….

         The variables I will test and control are….

         I will measure the force imparted by different strength muscles by….

         I predict that if I follow these steps….

         To be safe I need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your data in tables or graphs as appropriate. Examples are shown below.

 

 

Muscle Strength and Bone Movement

 

Distance Ball Moved

Muscle Thickness

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bolt sci

 

 

(page 8)

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question; do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         The advantages and limitations of my model are….

         As I worked on this project, I wish I had spent more time on....

         If I would have changed _____ , my investigation would have been more….

 

 

(page 9)

 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data  (e.g., number of trials, control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and Data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflection was limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 10)

 

 

 

 

 

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