Students apply physics to football at the Emirates Stadium

20 May 2015

Students from four schools took part in a day of physics and football at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on 15 May as the finale of an eight-week programme to engage students with science by applying it to soccer.

Football

The schools have been running after-school physics and football clubs in which students learnt about such concepts as projectiles, impact area and centre of mass and applied their knowledge in practice on the football pitch.

The programme has been aimed at students who might not usually be attracted to physics, and the project also involved producing an education resource, Thinking on Your Feet: Physics and Football, which explores eight ways in which physics thinking can improve students’ footballing skills. It is hoped that other schools and youth clubs throughout the country will use the resource to put on similar physics and football activities and will gain the support of their local football clubs.

The project was made possible by an £18,000 grant from John Lyon’s Charity and was run in partnership with the IOP, and Arsenal and Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR) football clubs. The initiative for the programme came from Arsenal, which approached the IOP with the idea of working on a science and football resource.

The club has an existing education programme that combines football with learning in several curriculum areas, called the Arsenal Double Club. Arsenal in the Community education officer Jack McNicholl said that through it, the club aimed to use football to encourage young people with their learning and to interest them in new things. He said: “It’s been great to work with the Institute of Physics to develop football sessions that help our participants to understand how physics applies to their everyday lives.”

Football

During the programme, IOP physics coaches worked alongside each school’s physics teacher to help students explore physics concepts. They then worked with a PE teacher, or a coach from Arsenal in the Community or QPR to apply their knowledge on the pitch.

At the event, the focus was on the spin and trajectory of the ball and why footballers sometimes kick across the ball rather than straight through it. Students learnt how an additional force comes into play when the ball has spin, and experimented with backspin, topspin and sidespin to see how this changes the path of the ball.

As well as football training and physics activities, the day included a tour of the Emirates Stadium and each of the students was given Arsenal-branded attendance certificates and a goody bag to take home. Around 10-20 students attended from the participating schools – Kingsbury High School, The Crest Academies, Whitefield School and William Ellis School.

The event attracted some media interest, and the IOP’s head of education, Charles Tracy, was interviewed on Radio London’s Breakfast Show on the day (from 18 minutes in), while IOP Captial Physics coach Niloufar Wijetunge was interviewed on Radio 5 Live (from 1 hour 53 minutes in).

The IOP’s project coordinator, Manchi Chung, said: “This has been a unique partnership with Arsenal and QPR, working together to show that physics and its way of thinking can appeal to any and all students, exploring with them how physics does have something to say about how players can refine their footballing techniques on the pitch.”