ARIZONA FOOTBALL

UA fans, got a minute? Time for physics lesson

2010-10-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:11:41Z UA fans, got a minute? Time for physics lessonPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 01, 2010 12:00 am  • 

For one minute on Saturdays, Ingrid Novodvorsky is one of the most-watched scientists in the country.

As the face for the Arizona Wildcats' "Physics of Football" feature shown on the Arizona Stadium scoreboard, Novodvorsky teaches more than 50,000 fans.

She's never seen it.

"I have not gone this year," she said sheepishly. "I think I did when I was an undergraduate."

Novodvorsky, director of the College of Science Teacher Preparation Program, arrived at the UA 11 years ago.

Here's a look at Novodvorsky, 51, and what physics - and ducks - have to do with football:

How it happened

New UA athletic director Greg Byrne started a video at Mississippi State last year, though similar segments have run at Nebraska and Texas A&M. Byrne found it was a fun way to engage the fans during a timeout while also connecting to the university.

Dana Cooper, the UA's sponsorship marketing consultant, first met with the department in June; it made a list of topic ideas.

Novodvorsky, who had appeared on camera before, was one of five to audition as the instructor.

The former Mountain View High School teacher instructs college students who want to teach middle and high school science.

"She seemed to be the most natural and at ease in front of the camera," Cooper said. "It was a combination of knowing the material and being able to present it with a camera in your face.

"I told them, 'You're a teacher here. You're also an entertainer. We don't want it to feel like a lecture. We want it to be in layman's terms.'"

Learning

The UA has aired three one-minute episodes, including one on momentum and force that featured former UA players Joe Longacre and Terrell Turner smashing watermelons, then covering them with football helmets.

"Physics principles are very common in football events," she said. "It's a way of making the subjects more accessible."

Cooper and Novodvorsky hope the spots help bring attention to science, especially for women.

"We're seeing it in the declining number of people that want to study physics in science," she said.

A women's basketball fan, she had never heard that wobbly passes are "wounded ducks" or seen the best way to throw a ball.

A teacher with little interest in football is teaching fans with little interest in physics.

The videos bridge the gap.

"I've learned a lot," she said.

The future

Novodvorsky laughs at the notion she's famous.

"I've had cool little celebrity moments in my own class," she said. "I've had three students who have mentioned that they've seen me on the video board."

Cooper has discussed broadening the series into science in general, airing it during basketball games. He's looked at finding a sponsor.

Novodvorsky said she's "had a blast" doing the videos but would like to see other disciplines in the spotlight, too.

"I really like the idea at branching out into other aspects," she said. "There's a lot more science than just physics.

"We can talk about medical issues and economics. There could be room for some other expansion."

 

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