Inspiring the next generation—on and off the court

The WNBA and Microsoft take learning to the next level with STEM and basketball. 

Jewell Loyd has pretty much done it all. She’s a 2x WNBA champion. 5x WNBA All-Star. 3x USA basketball gold medalist. WNBA scoring leader.

And she’s still going.

Nearly 10 years into her career, the Seattle Storm star is continually finding ways to up her game. Her secret? Hard work, dedication, and data. “STEM and basketball go hand in hand. After every game and practice, I review the data from my on-the-court performance, but also data from my training and healing routines to improve and better inform my practices,” Jewell says.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) wasn’t always a part of Jewell’s process. It wasn’t until she turned pro that she realized the impact technology can have on her game. Now a full-blown data evangelist, Jewell is dedicated to helping kids learn the power of STEM through basketball.

We’re giving kids the tools to create opportunities for themselves by helping them understand the data behind the plays.
Jewell Loyd
Guard for the Seattle Storm and STEM advocate

“Alright kiddos, imagine this ball is the sun.” Jewell says, placing a basketball down at center court. She’s hosting a recent STEM clinic in Seattle, co-sponsored by the WNBA and Microsoft.

“Now, imagine the rest of us are planets. You can be Mars or Earth or… even be a player on the sun,” she says with a smirk. “Okay, let’s practice orbiting the sun while dribbling.” Jewell and the kids start their orbit, slowly at first to master the movement’s mechanics. Then, they up the pace. A wayward ball bounces off a shoe and flies out of orbit. “Oh no, we lost a planet!” Jewell playfully exclaims as the kid chases down his runaway Mercury.

Jewell also shows off the various types of passes and their angles. The kids learn that “flat passes” glide smoothly through the air parallel to the floor. “High lob passes” shoot nearly straight up before arcing back down into the hand of their teammates. And “push passes” cut straight across the air like a rocket. The kids seem excited to learn about the geometric forces behind each pass. And to Jewell, that means mission accomplished. “I love learning and I love teaching. So, any time I can do both, it’s a win. Helping empower the next generation is so rewarding.”

Jewell is just one example of the WNBA players and organizations teaming up with Microsoft to introduce the world of STEM to kids through basketball.

Atlanta Dream

The Dream. It’s all in the name. The players are certainly living their dreams, having achieved professional basketball stardom. But they’re also helping young girls in the Atlanta area chase theirs—through STEM. The team’s “Power Her Dreams” clinics, sponsored by Microsoft, teach girls valuable STEM skills using basketball as an exciting entry point.

Basketball and STEM are surprisingly connected. Take dribbling, for example, one of the most fundamental skills in the game. Mastering it requires finesse… and physics. At the camps, the girls learn all about the force and energy behind a ball’s bounce.

Dream star Rhyne Howard recently joined a clinic to give the girls an engineering lesson using something unexpected: their basketball shoes. “Everyone here shout out your favorite basketball shoe,” a coach prompts the girls. She barely finishes the question before their answers ring out.

“Air Force Ones!”

“Lebron’s shoes!”

“The green Kobes—like the ones I’m wearing!”

“Well,” the coach continues, “these shoes were specifically designed to give you traction on the floor—that’s engineering.”

Three people, one standing and two seated, look at a laptop in a colorful classroom environment.
Rhyne Howard helps clinic participants learn basic coding skills. 

Later, Rhyne sits on the floor with the girls, pencils and paper in hand, demonstrating how to draw plays. She sketches out a court, marks down players’ positions, and shows what angles to take to cut across defenders and drive to the basket. A coach explains that creating plays is similar to creating “if/then” statements, which are the foundations of algorithms. And that learning code skills can help them up their game.

Because at these camps, the girls aren’t just playing games—they’re making them. Arcade-style basketball games, to be exact. Using Microsoft Make:Code, the girls learn basic coding skills to build a free-throw shooting game. Microsoft and the Dream hope to create a curiosity in STEM that opens the door to more opportunities in the future. On and off the court.

Connecticut Sun

The Connecticut Sun have been to the WNBA Finals four times since their inaugural season in 1999. To compete at such a premier level, the team uses data and technology to ensure their game is always on point. They’re also doing a full-court press to get young girls interested in STEM through basketball. “The fundamentals of dribbling, passing, and shooting serve as a bridge to gravity, geometry, and physics,” says Falecia Porter, Manager of Youth Development with the Connecticut Sun. “Both basketball success and STEM academic achievement build confidence, which is the goal of the Sun Academy.”

The Sun Academy, the team’s official youth basketball platform, provides basketball programming and holistic character development to kids across the greater New England area. The camps offer kids the opportunity to train with Sun players like Brionna Jones, while learning important STEM lessons through basketball drills. Students learn about gravity through dribbling and passing. They learn the path of planetary orbit by circling their own torsos with the basketball. And they even learn that the ball’s bumpy surface (called “pebbling”) was specifically designed to improve a player’s grip on the ball—i.e., the friction.

The lessons you will learn competing in sports and pursuing STEM careers will carry you forward throughout life.
Falecia Porter
Manager Youth Development, Connecticut Sun 

Learning with the Sun isn’t just limited to camps. Every season, the team hosts a STEM night at their home arena. At a recent STEM event, sponsored by Microsoft, kids and their families explored several booths offering hands-on STEM fun. A marine science organization gave kids the rare chance to examine the jagged teeth of a shark’s jawbone. Another booth taught kids how to turn liquids into solids using water and cornstarch, a mind-bending example of the changing states of matter. “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that!” a boy exclaimed! A perfect reaction to the magic of STEM.

Chicago Sky

The Chicago Sky might be the 2021 WNBA champions, but they’re also champions for education.

Since the Sky was formed in 2006, they’ve been vocal supporters of educators and leaders throughout the Chicago area, particularly with their High School Educator of the Year Award. The award recognizes local educators who contribute to student development in their community. With Microsoft as this year’s presenting sponsor, the winner will be recognized on court at a Sky home game and given a financial grant.

The Sky also create opportunities for learning through their Chicago Sky Basketball Academy, a program that provides girls ages 9-18 with basketball training, travel team opportunities, and educational camps. Sponsored by Microsoft, the camps include STEM and basketball clinics where kids can learn STEM curriculum through basketball drills.

A group of four young girls and an adult male smiling as they look at a tablet together in a gymnasium.
Awvee Storey connects basketball skills and STEM with students at the Chicago Sky Basketball Academy.  

Former Sky coach and current manager of corporate partnerships, Awvee Storey, dropped by a recent clinic to lend his professional expertise in developing fundamentals like dribbling, passing, and shooting. But he also drew lesser-known connections between these skills and STEM. Handing out Surface tablets to the kids, he asked: “Who here has played the dunk game in Minecraft?”

A chorus of Me! Me! Me! rippled across the gym.

“Well,” Storey responded, “that’s STEM! When you’re playing that game, you’re learning how STEM is used in basketball.”

Through these camps, the Sky aren’t just connecting kids with coaches. They’re connecting seemingly separate ideas. Dribbling and physics. Shooting and geometry. Minecraft and STEM. Showing kids that when they make these connections, the sky’s the limit.

Three teenagers in matching t-shirts operate robotic devices in a classroom setting, with a poster about the blue twilight team 22 in the background.

Minnesota Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx have won four WNBA titles, making them one of the most successful franchises in the league. But clawing their way to the top is no easy feat. It’s a season-long endurance test requiring an elite mix of dedication, talent, and technology. And from their back court to the front office, the Lynx’s penchant for data and analytics runs deep. “We use STEM throughout the entire franchise,” says Carley Knox, President of Business Operations for the Lynx. “From our medical team, to our basketball analytics and shooting systems, to who we draft, to who we pursue in free agency, to on-court technology, to our business intelligence and broadcast technologies. STEM touches all aspects of our business.”

So, it’s no surprise the Lynx are excited to spread the value of STEM to youth in the Twin Cities. Every season, the team hosts a STEM night on their home court at the Target Center, sponsored by Microsoft. The evening usually kicks off with moderated discussion about the intersection of STEM and sports, before kids and their families disperse to participate in several STEM-themed events. Like making code games on Microsoft tablets, creating fantastical worlds in Minecraft, and producing beats with the team’s DJ. They also learn from local businesses how STEM factors into real-world jobs, giving kids on-the-ground insight into potential careers.

Female basketball players from the minnesota lynx team celebrating during a game, with jerseys displaying team name and sponsor logos.
Minnesota Lynx players at Target Center.

Then, it’s game time. Kids can cheer on the Lynx knowing the STEM skills they just learned are powering their heroes’ play. Which, according to Knox, is exactly the plan. “By exposing youth to how STEM comes to life in basketball, you are allowing a very fun, interactive, and creative way for them to connect to the STEM fields.”


The Jr. NBA and Microsoft are also partnering to teach STEM concepts through basketball skills. The activities connect science, technology, engineering, and math to basketball, showing that STEM exists everywhere in sports.  

The content library is geared towards participants in two age groups: 6-8 and 9-11. Explore the activities here.