Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

October 2013    |    Volume: 45    |    Number: 10

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

Bats, balls and engineers

When IIE found out that University of Arizona professor Ricardo Valerdi was using baseball to teach mathematics and engineering, the story assignment was easy.

I just took it for myself. Many youthful sports viewing habits have declined over the decades, but Atlanta Braves baseball still generates enthusiasm, excitement and heartbreak. In fact, gentle reader, depending upon when you receive and open this edition, I could be in the stands overlooking the verdant vista of Turner Field, tomahawking it up for another Atlanta Braves’ playoff run.

Of course, as a long-suffering Braves fan, odds are likely that head will be upon hands, preparing to shed tears into an adult beverage after another postseason defeat. Sigh.

But after this month’s World Series concludes (go Braves!), spring training will come anew next year, as will Valerdi and the Arizona Diamondbacks Science of Baseball. Valerdi brought the idea with him from MIT to the baseball hotbed of Arizona, home to Major League Baseball’s Diamondbacks, one of two major league spring training circuits, and the 2012 NCAA baseball champion Arizona Wildcats.

As "Major League Learning" on Page 28 details, a pilot program targeting at-risk middle school students across the street triggered interest from the state Department of Education. Education officials put Valerdi in touch with the Diamondbacks, who helped transform the program into a year-round endeavor where teachers, coaches and engineering students use the fundamentals of baseball to teach the fundamentals of math and engineering.

As it turns out, in the right context, eighth-graders really can dig aerodynamics, Newton’s laws and other highfalutin concepts.

Valerdi has talked to other major league teams about expansion and even discussed opening "The Science of Cricket" with colleagues during a recent visit to Australia.

So take a look. Perhaps you can partner with your local sports conglomerate to bring science and math to children through your favorite pastime.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at mhughes@iienet.org or (770) 349-1110.