Crows take on UniSA STEM initiative

Students from the Adelaide Crows Next Generation Academy with Professor Ricardo Valerdi from Arizona University taking part in a STEMfooty activity which investigates ball trajectory and flight. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Students from the Adelaide Crows Next Generation Academy with Professor Ricardo Valerdi from Arizona University taking part in a STEMfooty activity which investigates ball trajectory and flight.

UniSA is part of a new trial that will use Australian Rules Football to engage students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

Students during the STEMfooty program, testing kicking distance and speed in relation to different AFL venues.Students during the STEMfooty program, testing kicking distance and speed in relation to different AFL venues.

In a partnership between the Crows, the Data to Decisions CRC and UniSA, the STEMfooty program is designed to increase the diversity of participation in STEM and to help address the significant growth in STEM-related jobs.

STEMfooty is based on a program developed in the US by Professor Ricardo Valerdi from Science of Sport which has delivered sport-linked STEM training to more than 100,000 students and 1000 teachers by partnering with Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association teams.

UniSA doctoral student and well-established STEM educator, Katie Gloede, worked with Niall Fay of the Data to Decisions CRC to bring the American program to Australia by connecting with the Crows.

“I have always had a passion for investigating and writing curriculum using sport as a learning vehicle,” says Gloede who has been supported in her PhD by supervisors Dr David Caldwell and Dr Alison Wrench.

“I believe movement is one of the vital keys to health and happiness for students; and physical education lessons offer the vehicle for this.

“Since becoming a mother of two girls I wanted to have an impact on the way STEM is offered in traditional school settings and encourage all kids – especially females who may not traditionally be inclined to engage in STEM subjects – to see the application of STEM in their interest areas.

Testing speed and angle during the STEMfooty program in October at UniSA's Magill campus.Testing speed and angle during the STEMfooty program in October at UniSA's Magill campus.

“I hope the students participating in the program have a fun and exciting day that promotes learning STEM activities using AFL as the medium.

“We want to create a comfortable learning environment that all students, no matter their physical skills and ability, can participate in and make learning connections with STEM concepts.

“The pilot will hopefully be the start of a new and exciting AFL program that opens up learning opportunities for students, especially from low socioeconomic areas and young females looking to start a career in STEM.”

The program will allow students to explore STEM concepts through both experiential and traditional academic approaches, providing links to real-world and broadly appealing applications.

“This project highlights how STEM is found all over the place,” says UniSA’s Associate Professor of STEM Education, Simon Leonard.

“It is not just robots or digital devices or civil engineering. In education, STEM is really about connecting the ways of thinking and doing, that have developed in the scientific disciplines with the diverse places in our society where they are actually used – like in football.

“This project highlights that maths and science are an everyday part of footy, so it helps kids make that link.

“As the project goes on, we are looking to see how we can build on that link - how we can build on these experiences to get kids to engage more deeply in the ideas, methods and values of STEM.

“Too often kids label themselves saying ‘I’m not a maths person’ or ‘I’m not a science person’.

Students from the Adelaide Crows Next Generation Academy taking part in an activity to measure heart rate and energy system interplay during AFL activities.Students from the Adelaide Crows Next Generation Academy taking part in an activity to measure heart rate and energy system interplay during AFL activities.

“Programs like this can help kids to identify with STEM and see it as a significant part of their lives.”

Adelaide Crows Chief Operating Officer, Nigel Smart, said the Club was pleased to help shape attitudes towards STEM as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting children in the community.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this innovative program which aims to translate Australian kids’ love of footy into an appreciation, understanding and passion for the science and mathematics underlying the sport,” Smart said.

“As part of the program, students will explore concepts such as statistics, aerodynamics, area and reaction time which are all important aspects of the Club’s high-performance football program.”

STEMfooty will be piloted with middle and senior school students from two South Australian schools and through the Crows Academies Elite Talent Squad programs (male and female) at the Adelaide Football Club this month.

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