SIE interim Department Head and Distinguished Outreach Professor Ricardo Valerdi has helped 500,000 elementary and middle school students by combining his passion for sports and science. Valerdi started putting ideas together, developing lessons that, for example, taught cartesian coordinates with the use of a baseball diamond and demonstrated how to measure and calculate a strike zone. Over time, he built a complete curriculum for middle school students that promotes real-world applications of science, technology, engineering, and math principles (STEM).
Eventually, with partners including Tech Launch Arizona, the university’s commercialization office, Valerdi founded the nonprofit startup The Science of Sport and began marketing the curriculum under the name The Science of Baseball.
In 2012, the university, working with Valerdi, partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks to create The Diamondbacks Science of Baseball, an academic curriculum that promotes real-world STEM applications. Through the program, STEM teachers of grades 3-8 attend a workshop at Chase Field in Phoenix, where they learn fun ways to teach students about STEM concepts through baseball and receive instructional materials that allow them the bring the program into their classrooms. The workshops and materials are all free for teachers.
In Arizona alone, the Diamondbacks Science of Baseball Program has become that home run that Valerdi envisioned. To date, they have trained over 700 teachers and impacted the lives of over 70,000 students.
But Valerdi and the university did not stop in Arizona. The Science of Sport has gone on to form partnerships with other baseball teams, including the San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, and the MLB Urban Youth Academies.
Today, the nonprofit has partnerships with one-third of Major League Baseball teams.
And the nonprofit’s expansion into other sports was key to reaching as many students in as many communities as possible.
Today, those partnerships have expanded across the nation, where communities and sports have come together to promote education to advance educational opportunities for young people. While baseball was the initial focus, over time The Science of Sport has expanded its curricula to football, basketball, and soccer, all with the goal of bringing STEM education to young sports fans everywhere.
The organization provides after-school programs, curriculum development, field trips, school visits, sideline chats, STEM showcases, summer camps, and teacher workshops.
As of now, The Science of Sport has programs in 16 states across the U.S. spanning 15 sports. They have trained over 5,000 teachers and have impacted almost 500,000 youth.
Valerdi feels fortunate to impact so many young people around the country, he said.
“I can confidently say that the University of Arizona was the ideal launchpad for The Science of Sport because of the combination of world-class STEM programs and contagious baseball culture. This is my very own field of dreams.”