Baseball Science Program Brings Kids Closer to Math, Physics

The new UA program gets students interested in math and science through the study of the physics and statistics of baseball.
October 30, 2012
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Media are invited to attend the Arizona Science of Baseball Media Day on Nov. 3 starting at 10 a.m. in the Engineering building (1127 E. James E. Rogers Way), Room 214, on the UA campus. Andy Lopez, head coach of the UA National Championship Baseball Team, will be the program's guest speaker that morning. The afternoon field portion of the program will be held at the baseball fields of Mansfeld Middle School, 1300 E. Sixth St., in Tucson.

A pilot program that uses America's favorite national pastime to get middle school kids actively interested in math and science is under way at the University of Arizona.

The Arizona Science of Baseball program engages middle school students with physics and statistics from the game of baseball to encourage classroom participation and help students with the challenges of science, technology, engineering and math – STEM subjects – in school. The inaugural program started in October.

"The program utilizes baseball to interest the left side of the brain of middle school boys and girls, to help them overcome intimidation from math and science," said Ricardo Valerdi, associate professor of systems and industrial engineering at the UA. "The goal is to develop future scientists and engineers by establishing a connection among baseball and statistics, geometry, human performance, nutrition and other technical aspects of the game."

Twenty students from Mansfeld Middle School are participating in the inaugural class, held on Saturdays until Nov. 17. Participants engage in hands-on classroom sessions at the UA in the mornings, and baseball drills in the Mansfeld ball fields in the afternoon.

The program includes both academic and athletic instruction. The academic component has four sections, each organized around a fundamental baseball skill: running, hitting, fielding and throwing. Each section includes lessons in math, science, history and social studies.

The Arizona Science of Baseball program involves volunteers from industry, undergraduate UA engineering students, and local high school students, and is modeled after a similar program at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Said Valerdi: "The long-term objective is to train middle school teachers so that they can implement the program at their schools."