Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the all-new Virtual Olympic Series, which is a collection of five virtual sports competitions hosted by their respective international federations and gaming partners.
This virtual series will take place from May 13 to June 23, prior to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This global event is fueled by a new recommendation from the International Olympic Committee, aimed at growing the convergence between esports and traditional sports.
Recommendation 9 (on page 21) states, “Encourage the development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities.” It also includes a series of bullet points, one of which reads, “Support local partnerships between sport and video gaming communities to encourage youth to engage in physical activity and with the Olympic Movement.”
This is exciting, if not timely, news for schools and esports programs, as educators have a brand new way to connect gaming, traditional sports, and STEM learning together as early as the Fall 2021 semester.
In order to help spark some new ideas, we’ve highlighted the five Olympic sports and how teachers can incorporate their virtual partners and games into a STEM or problem-based learning experience that can inspire a student to pursue a career in esports and gaming.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) will lean on the Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 game by Konami to feature the sport in the virtual realm. Through this game, students can learn concepts like the physics of a curveball, the geometry and design of the diamond field, and the advanced analytics of baseball stats. For more ideas, check out Major League Baseball’s terrific education partnership with the Discovery Channel.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will lean on Zwift to feature its Olympic sport. Zwift is a world leader in virtual cycling and follows a gamified model where your physical fitness goals and running routines can be achieved. When it comes to cycling and biking in the world of STEM education, be sure to check out what BMX is doing in schools. Students of all ages (primarily elementary and grade school) can either build a pro-level bike from scratch and learn bike engineering, or flex their conceptual design and team-based skills by building their very own custom track.
Rowing currently features an open format, but one international partner could be the World Indoor Rowing Championships (WIRC), which held their 2021 event virtually. Rowing also involves both individual and team-based competition, making it even more accessible to a wider variety of students. Just like cycling, a strong bridge to STEM education already exists, as rowing incorporates curriculum from the great Greek Archimedes to NASA engineer Katherine Johnson. Thermodynamics, potential and kinetic energy, boat design, rowing mechanics, and kinesiology are all primed for students and teachers to experience virtually.
The sport of Sailing is being showcased by Virtual Regatta. Again, there are loads of connections to STEM similar to rowing, from boat dynamics to atmospheric monitoring.
Of the five sports included in the VOS, none may be bigger than motor racing and the partnership
with Gran Turismo. This marks the first time in Olympic Games history that a motor sport will hold an official competition. This landmark occasion will bring the entire racing world together in new and more accessible ways.
The Virtual Olympic Series will certainly face a wide variety of logistical and technical challenges in its first iteration, but beyond the final results, there’s a buzz of excitement around the opportunities it will bring to the next generation of aspiring pro athletes. With so many kids wanting to connect, learn, and pursue a career in the converging industries of esports and traditional sports, the IOC’s newfound commitment should offer a multitude of new programs for STEM educators and schools around the world.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of virtual sports in schools, we recently posted a video discussing the iRacing platform and STEM-based learning, so be sure to check it out.