Inside Story of Olympic Glory Energizes Middle School Classroom

Olympic medals, playing in the snow and going fast are all things that appeal to middle school students, so Jay Tudor and Mark Mirgon were in the driver’s seat when they visited a local school to talk about the science of speed. And before it was over, the students got their turn in the seat.

Tudor and Mirgon are part of a Dow initiative that rebuilt the luge used by the United States Olympic team. Cutting-edge materials and design inspirations have greatly improved the luge sled, allowing the team to reach unprecedented success, winning a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics and several World Cup victories.

Using that success as a demonstration of the power of STEM skills, Tudor and Mirgon visited White Pine Middle School in Saginaw Township, Michigan, on Jan. 28. They took with them an actual luge sled, as well as a sample of the suit worn by Olympic luge competitors and several generations of the high-tech runners that help make the luge so fast.

After talking about how much fun it is to be part of a winning science team, Tudor and Mirgon let the kids touch, feel and even sit on the props. Some asked questions about how it all works. Some just wanted to imagine speeding downhill.

“The students thoroughly enjoyed having Mr. Tudor and Mr. Mirgon visit our classroom,” teacher Shellie Estep said. “It allowed them to see the connection between careers in the real world and what they are learning in science right now. I heard many positive comments from students: ‘I can't believe they designed that here in Michigan,’ ‘That was so cool to get to lay in the luge myself,’ and ‘I want to work with them ... it looks so fun!’ "

Dow scientist Jay Tudor helps White Pine Middle School student Rajesh Madhavan try out the luge that Tudor and co-worker Mark Mirgon took with them on a visit to the school in Saginaw Township, Michigan.

Jay Tudor tells White Pine Middle School student Gracie Cieszlak about the proper way to steer a luge, while fellow student Rajesh Madhavan waits for his turn and Mark Mirgon, in the background, shows luge components to other students.

Jay Tudor, left, and Mark Mirgon used a real luge and a collection of related items to make a connection between science and speed for students at White Pine Middle School in Saginaw Township, Michigan.