Students explore why different types of sneakers are used in a variety of common sports, and how engineers analyze design needs in sneakers and many other everyday items. The goal is for students to understand the basics of engineering associated with the design of athletic shoes. The design of footware based on how it will be used involves bioengineering. Students analyze the foot movements in a variety of sports, develop design criteria for a specific sport, and make recommendations for requirements for the sneakers used in that sport.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
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- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- D. Requirements for a design include such factors as the desired elements and features of a product or system or the limits that are placed on the design. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Massachusetts: Science
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Analyze a product's components and functions.
- Recognize a design need or engineering challenge and define the associated design criteria and constraints.
- Communicate a design solution through drawing or speaking.
- basketball hoop and ball
- baseball bat
- area to jog in
- soccer field and net
- track and field events (running, long jump)
- paper, pencils, and pens
- shallow baking pan, large enough to step into with one foot
- water to put into the baking pan
- green or red construction paper
- paper towels to dry feet
- (optional) inexpensive canvas sneakers or other athletic shoes
|traction:||Adhesive friction, such as tires on a road.|
|friction:||Resistance of motion between two touching surfaces.|
|support:||To keep from slipping, to hold up.|
|cushioning:||Absorbing of shock (sudden force).|
- Present the sports available for today's activities and have students discuss the most common foot motions used in the sports.
- Have 2-3 students do a sport one at a time. They can shoot baskets, swing a baseball bat, jog, dribble a soccer ball, or do track or field events such as the long jump. As each student participates, have the rest of the groups observe the actual motions. Answer questions such as:
- How do their feet move?
- If your sneaker could have special qualities for that sport what would they be?
- What suggestions do you have for how their shoes could be changed to match the movements for that sport?
- After all students have tried a sport, have them compare the motions they predicted would be most common to the ones they observed happening.
- Lead a discussion focused on what type of properties the sneaker should have to be best for this sport. Should it be flexible or stiff, slippery or sticky, bouncy or firm? Refer to the attached "What Makes Up Your Sneaker?" diagram that introduces some terminology and features commonly associated with the design of athletic shoes.
- Have students do the sport again, with the rest of the group calling out what would be good for the sneaker to be doing as the sport example plays out in front of them. Have one team member record observations and ideas for each sport.
- Move to the next sport and repeat.
- After all the sports have been done, have students discuss the differences between them. How do the motions differ? What qualities are needed in the sneaker to help these motions? List these ideas and label as design criteria.
- Select one sport. With the ideal sneaker in mind, choose the person in your group who is wearing sneakers most like the ideal one. Have this student try the activity, discussing how easy or difficult different parts of it are such as starting, stopping, turning and jumping.
- Have students compare shoes. (optional) Pass around the inexpensive canvas sneaker (and other athletic shoes such as soccer cleats). Compare shoes among classmates. How are the bottoms different? Smoother? Rougher? How does the amount of cushioning and support compare? What does the group think is the advantage(s) of each particular shoe feature?
- Conclude with a discussion about how the students acted as engineers.
- Have students each remove a shoe and sock from one foot and step onto a blank piece of red or green construction paper.
- Trace around the outside of the bare foot with a pen.
- Have each student bring his or her foot tracing to a location where a baking pan is placed on the floor with about a half-inch of water in it. Have students step into the water with their bare foot, shake off the drips (to create a clearer image), and then place the wet foot inside their traced outline.
- Lead a discussion about in what ways the wet footprint looks different and similar to the traced outline. Why might both images be important in sneaker design?
- What part of a sneaker responds to and is made to create friction? (The sole or bottom of the sneaker.)
- Is the cushioning important for all sports? (No. Some sports require high flexibility or high tactile sense, such as dance and tightrope walking.)
- Why do some sneakers have smoother bottoms than others? (Smoother bottoms provide more contact area with the floor, which is an advantage on smooth courts, such as basketball courts.)
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2001 WEPAN/Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Making the Connection, Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (WEPAN)
Last modified: October 5, 2015