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Gymnastics gold medallist demonstrates the ‘physics of sport’

Dr Chris Mills competing at the veteran gymnastics British championships

Dr Chris Mills competing at the veteran gymnastics British championships

A new programme to teach school and college pupils the ‘physics of sport’ was run by a gymnastics gold medallist who showed how seemingly impossible feats performed by gymnasts can demonstrate – rather than defy – the laws of physics.

University of Portsmouth lecturer, Dr Chris Mills, recently won the veteran gymnastics British championships. He taught A level pupils how almost anything you do in gymnastics can be related to physics, whether you’re performing somersaults and twists on the floor, or swinging round a high bar.

Dr Mills competed in the over 30’s category at the British gymnastics championships in Leicester last month. He won gold in his category and also scored the highest mark on the rings of the whole competition, beating much younger competitors.

He said: “A gymnast uses so many aspects of physics in every move it is exciting to be able to show this to the pupils. Taking physics outside of the classroom will hopefully inspire them to think about science in much broader terms.

“The role of science in modern sport is quite staggering. Scientists are constantly working on ways to improve performance, such as designing the latest drag reducing swimsuits or the most effective fabric to wick away sweat. Even the track or floor used in sports competition will have been specially designed for maximum performance.

“The workshop combined practical gymnastics with theoretical physics and was designed to bring the subject to life for pupils.”

Over 30 A level pupils attended the session which taught key physics principles such as moments, angular momentum, projectile motion and impacts. The day culminated in the pupils designing and building a new gymnastics floor to maximise energy return, which would theoretically enable gymnasts to perform more complex somersaults and twists.

The final designs were tested by dropping an instrument from one metre high to see which surface caused it to rebound the highest.

The event was organised in partnership with the South East Physics Network (SEPNet), a consortium of seven universities working together to deliver excellence in physics. Pupils attended from Portsmouth High School, the Isle of Wight College, Havant College and Bishop Luffa School in Chichester.

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