Top athletes and coaches use a whole lot of science and engineering to improve performance and increase the chances of winning. Technologies like better tennis rackets, sleeker running and swimming outfits, and aerodynamic soccer balls, mean that current athletes are breaking world records left and right. Add to that better nutrition and science-based training regimes and you have an era of amazing athletes! Explore how science and engineering impact your favorite sport.

Science Fair Project Idea
Imagine a symmetrical grid of nine points superimposed over the ball. Kicking the ball squarely on the center point imparts no spin, but kicking on any of the other points will impart spin on the ball. How will the resulting spin affect the trajectory of the ball for each of the 8 outer grid points? Kicking the ball with a sliding motion of the foot is another way to impart spin. Once you've made your predictions, you can set up to test them with a soccer ball, video camera and a tape… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Block off one-third of a soccer net with a cone, 5-gallon bucket or some other suitable object. Shoot into the smaller side from a set distance, but systematically varying the angle to the goal line. Take enough shots at each angle to get a reliable sample. How does success vary with angle? For a basic project: How do you think your success rate will vary with angle? Draw a conclusion from your experimental results. A bar graph showing success rate at different angles can help to… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Use a video camera to analyze the angle of lift with different clubs. Measure the distance the ball travels. Be sure to conduct a sufficient number of trials with each club so that your results are consistent. This can also be a great way to work on your swing! (Idea from Goodstein, 1999, 83-85.) Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
How much difference does the spiraling motion of a well-thrown football make on the distance of the throw (compared to wobbling, or end-over-end motion of the ball)? Think of a way to reproducibly produce the desired ball motion and launch it with a constant force to find out. (For more information on the physics, see Gay, 2004.) Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
When the punter is trying to hit the "coffin corner" (within the opposing team's 10-yard line), out of bounds, what is the best angle to kick the ball for correct distance and maximum "hang time?" (For more information on the physics involved, see: Gay, 2004, Chapters 4 and 5.) Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
When watching a football game, have you ever wondered why some kicks lead to a successful field goal and others do not? There are a lot of variables at play in a game of football, and many of them are related to physics. One variable that can affect whether a field goal is successful is distance. In this science project, you will explore how field goal success rate is affected by distance from the goalposts. What will be the best distance for you to kick some field goals? Grab a football, head… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
If you have a multi-speed bike, you know that you can make it easier or harder to pedal just by shifting gears. Ever wonder how that works? You can investigate this a number of ways. A basic approach is to use a selection of spools of thread (with different diameters), a board with two nails, and a rubber band. Place a spool over each nail, and put the rubber band over them. Mark the 12:00 position on each spool so that you can count revolutions. Turn one spool through a full circle and… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
You are right next to the basket and someone passes you the ball. Will you go for a direct shot or will you use the backboard and take a bank shot at the basket? Would different positions on the court give you a higher chance of making a shot using the backboard than others, even when keeping the distance from the hoop the same? In this science project, you will build a scale model and test different positions on the court to determine if one results in a better chance of making a bank shot… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
For this project, you'll use a baseball as a pendulum weight, studying the motion of the ball with and without spin. Wrap a rubber band around the ball, and tie a string to the rubber band. Fasten the string so that the ball hangs down and can swing freely. Mark a regular grid on cardboard, and place it directly beneath the ball to measure the motion. You can also time the oscillations with a stopwatch. Lift the ball along one of the grid axes, and let it go. Observe the motion and record… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Do corked bats really hit the ball further? What about other materials? Here's a project to find out. Read more
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Free science fair projects.