USC Viterbi alumnus Ricardo Valerdi teaches students STEM through the joy of sports, including partnerships with MLB and the NBA.
“Ask a classroom of third or fourth graders: ‘Raise your hand if you like math,’” said Ricardo Valerdi, M.S. ’02, Ph.D. ’05, “and most of them would raise their hand.”
“Wait a year or two after that,” he added “and most of them would not.”
Since becoming an academic, Valerdi wanted to find ways that he could inspire young kids to develop a passion for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Valerdi, who was named the University of Arizona’s Distinguished Outreach Professor in 2020, serves as a professor of systems and industrial engineering.
“In elementary school, math and STEM can be really difficult, and they don’t have the emotional tools to overcome the challenges and struggles,” explained Valerdi, who studied systems architecture and industrial and systems engineering at the USC Viterbi School.
That’s what inspired him to create the Science of Sport, a nonprofit business that uses sports to explain mathematical and scientific concepts in a way that engages young students. Since its creation, Science of Sport has fostered successful partnerships with several major sport leagues, such as the MLS, MLB, NBA and NCAA.