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Videos explore science of innovation

NBC News' Ann Curry narrates a video about the process of innovation. Click to watch on Science360.

After exploring the science of football, hockey and the Olympics, an Emmy-winning educational video effort is tackling the biggest game of all: innovation. The 11 videos in the "Science of Innovation" series are the latest fruits of a long-running partnership between the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News.

The "Science of Innovation" series, narrated by NBC's Ann Curry, delves into the sometimes-unpredictable process that results in better technologies and products — and highlights 10 frontiers of innovation, ranging from biofuels to micro-electronic health monitors that can be worn on the skin like tattoos.

Monday's unveiling of the series was timed to coincide with the 165th birthday of Thomas Edison, one of America's best-known inventors. For this series, NSF and NBC have teamed up with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All of the scientists and engineers featured in the videos have been funded by NSF and have received U.S. patents for aspects of their work.

"America's unique system of funding innovative ideas helps them move from basic to applied research and, ultimately, into the marketplace," Judith Gan, NSF's director of legislative and public affairs, said in a news release. "NSF is proud to have participated in supporting innumerable scientific and technological innovations, which in turn have helped create millions of jobs that make our economy exceptionally competitive."

The videos are being made available to NBC affiliates, and can be downloaded freely from NSF's Science360 portal as well as the NBCLearn website. They complement lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association for middle-school and high-school classes.

Teresa Stanek Rea, the patent and trademark office's acting director, said that "education is the key to encouraging today's children to become tomorrow's innovators."

"These videos and lesson plans are great tools for teachers everywhere to help students learn about intellectual property, while inspiring them to connect the process of innovation with science, technology, engineering and mathematics education." she said.

Soraya Gage, general manager of NBCLearn, said "our hope is that this special video series will engage and inspire our students to imagine the next great invention that will improve lives and transform the future."

More from the 'Science Of...' series:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.