SAN JOSE — When the average 5th-grade Sharks fan watches a Brent Burns’ slap shot beeline towards the goal, he or she is probably just worried about whether the puck hits the back of the net or not. The angle of Burns’ shot or the goalie’s save percentage probably isn’t even a blip on their radar.
But SAP’s “Digital Scholars” program is aiming to show students there are math and technology-based jobs in sports too -- ones that look at things like how many goals-against can hurt a netminder's average or how changing the price of merchandise in a team's store can impact sales.
In a hands-on session with students at Baldwin Elementary School in the South Bay, Burns himself had the opportunity to interact with students who are using the program to learn about the different sides of the sports industry, from analytics to jersey sales and more.
The Norris Trophy winner told NBC Sports California he was impressed -- especially with how quickly the students could make their way through the math-based tasks the program sets up for them.
"It wouldn't be easy for me to do that stuff," Burns laughed after he had watched several students maneuver through the program.
The initiative's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education platform features a hands-on way of learning, with it's "Data Champions" module that has a focus on football, basketball, and, of course, hockey. Plans for the STEM program to be used in schools emerged in the spring of 2019, with hopes to use the "gamified" program in select schools in seven U.S. states along with Ontario and British Columbia in Canada.
But the laptop-compatible program is more than a video game with a few math-based trivia questions popping up along the way. Although, to be fair, a few questions from the program posed at Thursday's event were hard for even the adults in the room to answer. All in all, it teaches students about some of the detail that goes into jobs surrounding a team -- not just being the star athlete,
So while one task includes moving a puck-scorer to different areas of the offensive zone to get the best shot at a goal, it's also teaching students about turning their interests in this program into future jobs thanks to its "career-pathing" focus, which makes the program more of a job-creating tool and less of a video game.
Something Burns, who spent nearly an hour talking to students about what they were learning from the program, liked about the STEM education overall.
"It was pretty cool to see how it was steering them based on their interests and what they're doing on certain things and what they can look into doing later in life," Burns said. "It's really cool to see that these programs can start tracking based on their interests and what they're clicking on. Just to let them know 'Hey, you might want to look into this.'"
That's high praise from a father of three.
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Burns' biggest takeaway was that the program made learning about the different aspects of sports accessible to any student -- whether they're a future athlete or bound to be a stellar statistician.
"It's all relatable and that's the biggest thing with school," Burns said. "All of this was relatable and it was helping them steer to the future."