Bill Self spent the last day of July using basketball to help teach science, technology, engineering and match to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City.
The focus of Thursday’s STEM in Sports event that partnered Kansas Athletics, Time Warner Cable (TWC) and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City was on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) – but KU head coach Bill Self used basketball to do the teaching.
Self joined Jeff Rosenblatt, Director of Science City, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, Wyandotte County Unit to get the club’s members excited about learning. TWC’s “Connect a Million Minds” campaign was launched to inspire the next generation of problem solvers. Rather than a lecture in the typical classroom setting, kids filled the gym to watch Self put on basketball demonstrations, while Rosenblatt explained the science behind each one.
“In athletics at every level, it still comes down to academics,” Self explained to his audience as he took the court. “If you want to be really good athletically, you have to understand the components behind what makes those plays work.”
Some are calling the shortage of young people entering STEM fields a crisis, and while the need for scientists, engineers, architects, mathematicians and other crucial problem solvers is at an all-time high, there is a shortage of young people – especially girls and minorities – who are preparing for these vital and essential careers. Getting young spectators motivated about to learn those subjects is the ultimate goal.
Five common basketball moves made ideal demonstrations to show how STEM in Sports can be applied. The duo started with defensive stance to explain center of gravity, then moved on to spinning a ball on their fingers to showcase centripetal force. They worked kinetic energy into their third demonstration, using bouncing tennis balls versus bouncing basketballs. When they moved onto the bank shot, Self shared wisdom passed on to him.
“My dad always taught me, when in doubt use the glass,” Self said.
He and Rosenblatt went on to use statistics to teach the effectiveness that bank shots have over the nothing-but-net variety. After TWC and Boys & Girls Club officials handed out calculators to all the members in attendance, they had the chance to calculate the free-throw percentage of the volunteers willing to shoot in front of the crowd.
Hands excitedly flew up when the question and answer session began, where Self addressed topics about his own playing skills and if these were the same things he taught his current players.
“We’re in the kid business. Most of the kids I deal with are usually a little older,” Self said after the event. “But they were probably all in gyms a lot like this just a few years ago. It’s always fun getting to spend time with kids. I’m not sure any of them are looking up to me, but it’s so fun to get out and spend time with kids who really idolize your players.”