Hands-on Activity: Sneaking Up on Sneakers
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
4 of the following set-ups:
Each group needs:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Sneakers are one of the most commonly worn shoes in our culture. They provide comfortable support for our feet as we go about our active lives as students, athletes, educators and engineers. The design of sneakers (and all athletic shoes) is based on how they will be used and is one type of bioengineering.
Do you own a pair of sneakers? Maybe more than one pair? (Listen to student answers.) Do you have a special pair of shoes that you use for a certain sport? Do those shoes make a difference in how you perform that sport? Well, think about that during our activity today.
Today, you are bioengineers who have been asked by the Active Sports Shoe Company to help design a new line of shoes for a variety of sports.
First, we will explore foot motion in sports. To do this, you will participate in a variety of different sports, observing and discussing the differences in foot motions and shoe features and requirements that would make them more effective for the athletes. Then, you will learn more about feet by taking a closer look at your own.
With all this new information, you will be better prepared to give recommendations for how to improve a sneaker for a specific sport, and maybe even create your own sneaker design!
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
The design of today's sneakers is an engineering science that combines physics and biomechanics. Engineering design utilizes materials that provide durability, comfort, cushioning and stability. Good designs also consider the type of foot (female, male, child) since each has different characteristics. Another component in the design is the consideration of which sport the shoe will be used to play. Each sport has different footwear requirements. Some need high flexibility, others maximum cushioning or high levels of friction. In addition, the foot structure is considered as well. Women's feet have a different shape than men's feet and children's feet are shaped differently than adult feet. The inside layout of a well-designed sneaker takes these physical differences into account.
Sneakers originated in 1908 and were comprised of rubber soles with canvas uppers. The Keds™ brand was introduced in 1917. In 1922, the idea to create different models for different needs was introduced. The health and fitness movement of the 1970s created a high demand for sneakers by the public, and in 1979 the concept of cushioning air bubbles in the sole was introduced. Since then, advancing capabilities and creation of new materials has resulted in highly specialized (and expensive) sneakers.
With the Students
Part A: Exploring Foot Motion in Sports
Part B: Exploring Your Own Feet
Part C: Create Your Own Sneaker Design
Have teams select any sport (not just the ones done for this activity) and each draw a picture of the ideal footwear for that sport. Have students list the design criteria for the selected sport. Discuss how the design criteria differ between sports. Require that they include descriptions of their footwears' qualities and their benefits to athletes. Incorporate design constraints by asking students what sort of budget they would need to build their shoe design. Could they do it with a 100 dollar budget? Share ideas via a guided class discussion or large drawing on a board.
Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Observe class participation in discussion on common motions used in sports.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Observe student participation within groups.
Have students write-up their sneaker designs explaining the reasons for each recommended feature.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Make a list of sports that have similar types of foot motions. Do these sports need the same kind of shoes or different ones? Why?
Examine the sneakers worn by students in the class. Make a list of sports that each student's sneaker would be best suited for.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
For more advanced students, have them research the materials used to make sneakers.
ContributorsM. Cyr, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, project funded by Lucent Technologies Foundation
Copyright© 2001 by WEPAN. All rights reserved.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Making the Connection, Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (WEPAN)
Last Modified: March 7, 2014