The University of Southern Mississippi is using students' interest in sports to attract them to a first-of-its-kind major in human performance and high-tech materials. "To the 18-year-old mind, science is so abstract that it's intimidating and unfamiliar and nebulous," said polymer science professor Jeff Wiggins, a former Nike manufacturing manager. "But if you talk about a football helmet or a baseball bat, and impact and collision, students not only have a good feel for what that is, they probably have some experience with that. And that way, you can teach science from a perspective students already understand."

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