Curricular Unit: Intro to Engineering through Sports and the Olympics

Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program and Laboratory, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Three photos show legs of soccer players around a ball, athlete with arms raised and medal around her neck, interior of a huge, modern stadium filled with soccer-watching fans.
Olympics and Engineering
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Students are introduced to the basic principles behind engineering and the types of engineering while learning about an always-popular topic—the Olympics. The involvement of engineering in modern sports is amazing and pervasive. Students learn about the techniques of engineering problem solving, including brainstorming and the engineering design process. The importance of thinking out of the box is stressed through a discussion of the engineering required to build grand, often complex, Olympic event centers. Students review what they know about kinetic and potential energy as they investigate the design of energy-absorbing materials, relating this to the design of lighter, faster and stronger sports equipment to improve athletic performance and protect athletes. Students consider states of matter and material properties as they see the role of chemical engineering in the Olympics. Students also learn about transportation and the environment, and the relationship between architecture and engineering.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Working in teams, engineers approach creative problem-solving by using the techniques of brainstorming and following the cyclical steps of engineering design process. Engineers are challenged to think "outside of the box" as they envision, design and create complex projects, structures, products, materials and processes. Engineers are intimately involved in transportation, the environment, architecture, sports—and really everything in our human-made world.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties. (Grade 2) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
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Unit Schedule



See individual lessons and activities.


© 2006 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program and Laboratory, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


This digital library content was developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation (GK-12 grant no 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: March 14, 2018