SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt - An Engineeering 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

An Engineering 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

Use the Design Investigations section of the Inquiry Outline as a guide for helping students to explore solutions to a problem related to stride length and speed. The activity focuses on analysis of an action and how adjusting one component of the action influences the result.

 

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

Show students photos of famous athletes or gain permission from school athletes to use them as examples. Ask students to point out physical characteristics that might influence how each person excels at his or her sport. You might need to supplement the discussion with additional images or demonstrations of actions involved in some sports, such as golf or discus. Use prompts such as the following to start students talking:

         During a golf swing, the body….

         Characteristics that might help a golfer are….

         During a throw, a football quarterback….

         Characteristics that might help a quarterback are….

 

(page 2)

 

Show the video SOTSO: The Biomechanics of Usain Bolt.

 

Focus the discussion on Usain’s physical characteristics. Stop the video at 1:37 and ask students to make predictions about how Usain’s height gives him an advantage. Encourage students to jot down points about Usain’s physical structure as they finish watching 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….

         If “mechanics” is about how something works, then “biomechanics” is about….

         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 factors that influence how Usain, other athletes, and people in other professions take advantage of their physical attributes to excel. 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?

         Is a longer stride length important in excelling at other kinds of walking/running sports?

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

         How would a runner with a shorter stride compensate?

         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:

         I will research the question by….

         The variables I will test and control are….

         The constraints I have to design within are….

         The steps I will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

 

(page 3)

 

 

Focused Approach (Copy Master pages 7-8)

The following exemplifies how students might investigate a question about how to analyze the effect of stride length on speed in an activity such as race walking. Point out that race walking is also an Olympic sport, with specific rules, or constraints. The most important one for students to consider is that one foot has to be in contact with the ground at all times, thus there is no flight phase.

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

         How do the mechanics of race-walking compare to running?

         How might you calculate stride length?

         How might stride length be related to speed?

         How can you compare results from different individuals?

         How might foot size make a difference?

2.      Students might choose to do further research about race walking and make comparisons between it and Usain’s sprinting action. This comparison might include: labeled diagrams of foot position, muscles involved, and other mechanics.

3.      Encourage students to brainstorm several methods of determining stride length before settling on one they will try. Students might find that after an initial attempt at a methodology, they need to start over with another idea.  Some might try multiple solutions at the same time. Use prompts with students such as the following:

         I will measure stride length over a distance of _____ because….

         Stride length is measured heel to heel or toe to toe because….

         We chose _____ to participate in the trials because he, she, or they….

4.      Team members should work with the participant(s) to help the participant(s) adhere to the rule of at least one foot on the ground while the participants change their stride lengths. Stride lengths might be calculated from a central portion of a trial so as to capture length that is more normal for the variable being tested. Use prompts with students such as:

         We will have the participant wear _____ shoes (or go barefoot) because….

         We will measure the average length by….

         The variables we will control are….

         We will have the participants vary their strides by….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

5.      Students should analyze the action and make claims about how changing the stride length impacted speed.

6.      Students might continue their investigation by analyzing another aspect of mechanics, such as the effect of arm swing on speed.

 

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 stride length on speed in race walking might be the following:   As evidenced by calculating speed to cover a distance both before and after Colin’s

 

(page 4)

 

stride was lengthened, I claim lengthening the stride negatively impacts speed during race walking because it became too difficult for Colin to keep one foot in contact with the ground at all times, which is a constraint of the process.

 

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 different from those of the other groups. Some others found that lengthening the stride made the race walker faster while others found no change in the speed of their race walker. I think this could be due to the differences among the race walkers themselves.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or 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 reflecting 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….

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

         One piece of evidence I still do not understand is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

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

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Bellringer: Play the video as students gather for class, repeating at least once.  Instruct students to listen and watch for Usain’s personal reactions to his running prowess and training regime. Then have students briefly discuss how Usain’s attitude might have both positive and negative impact on his success.

 

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.

 

Using the 5E Approach?

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

 

(page 5)

 

Engage:  Use the video to prompt students’ thinking about how the intensity of action-reaction forces between a runner and the ground are dependent on factors such as mass and speed. Students might begin to generate questions that can become the focus of supporting inquiry activities.

Elaborate: Use the video to extend understanding of 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 … STEM

Math:

Students might research distances for various races, and determine how quickly Usain could complete each race if he were able to maintain his sprinting speed and stride length over longer distances. Students might make comparisons with winning times in famous marathons, such as those held in Boston or New York, or other Olympic events. Students also might calculate their own top speed and stride length and compare those with their calculations for Usain.

 

Use Video in Assessment

To assess student understanding of the interaction of body systems – or specifically, just the muscular and skeletal systems – play any one of the segments showing Usain running, with the sound muted. Then give the following instructions.

Describe what is occurring among body systems (or between muscles and bones) to enable Usain to move so quickly.

 

 

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 through redesign. 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….

 

Record Data and Observations

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

 

(page 6)

 

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….

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

         One piece of evidence I still do not understand is….

 

 

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 to analyze an action and the impact of changing one aspect of that action.  Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How does changing the stride length impact speed in race walking?

 

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 might measure a normal stride length and then change it. How could you do that? What impact would it have?

         I will have the participant wear _____ shoes (or go barefoot) because….

         I will measure the average length by….

         The variables I will control are….

         I will have the participants vary their stride by….

         To be safe, I need to….

(page 7)

 

Record Data and Observations

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

 

                             Speed and Normal Stride                                                                                 Speed and Increased Stride

Distance

 

 

Distance

 

 

Number of Steps

Length of Stride

 

 

Number of Steps

Length of Stride

Trial 1

 

 

 

Trial 1

 

 

Trial 2

 

 

 

Trial 2

 

 

Trial 3

 

 

 

Trial 3

 

 

Average (Mean)

 

 

 

Average (Mean)

 

 

Speed

 

 

Speed

 

 

 

bolt eng

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)

 

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….

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

         One piece of evidence I still do not understand is….

 

 

(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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