Science, fashion and middle school students came together Tuesday to solve societal problems through footwear.
The result: shoes that can guide you to safety if you get lost in the woods, grow along with your foot or even alert diabetics, who sometimes have little feeling in their extremities, when their shoes are dangerously rubbing against their skin.
The design ideas were presented by preteens across Miami-Dade County at the Frost Museum of Science’s Shoe-IN(novation) Design Dash Contest. There were 24 teams from public, private and charter schools who competed for the grand prize: a $1,000 check and a 3D printer.
Students worked for weeks after school and during class to build and test new kinds of shoes that would meet a particular need or solve a specific problem.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Leona Stewart, a sixth-grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School, wanted to make a shoe for diabetics after her grandfather faced possible amputation because of foot sores.
She and her team came up with a sneaker that flashes a light when it detects too much pressure.
“I don’t like to see people suffering,” Leona said.
The second-place team, from Irving and Beatrice Peskoe K-8, wanted to help people who can’t afford multiple pairs of shoes — or a single pair, for that matter. Their idea was for a durable shoe with different canvas covers that snap on with fasteners.
“For some reason, kids these days get teased for only having one pair of shoes,” Israel Venegasi, an eighth-grader, told judges.
“We’re trying to find a solution to stop bullying so children can go to school,” added Melanie Napoles, also in eighth grade.
But first place went to an all-girls group from David Lawrence, Jr. K-8 Center. Teacher Kristy Reinhartz, whose team took home the grand prize, was eager to incorporate the competition into her classroom lessons.
“If you bring in a pair of Nike shoes or any kind of cool sneaker, you get their attention right away,” she said.
Using Velcro and a yoga mat for the insole, the David Lawrence team came up with a shoe that looked like a gladiator sandal — strappy and reaching up to the ankle. But the shoe quickly converts into a sneaker by attaching colorful fabrics over the sandal shell. The brand name: Skinz 4 Style.
What got the judge’s attention was the team’s website, developed by the students, where shoppers could browse the different skins available. Covers include a zebra-print, and a neon-green-and-metallic-gold leopard print.
“The skin is like, super easy to put on,” said Olivia Chierico, a sixth grader. “It’s very versatile.”
Daniela Fedele, said she learned to sew to make the outer skins for the shoes.
“I counted how many times I pricked myself: like 12,” she said.
“But then we made a thimble out of pickles,” said Cristina Montes.
Clarified Olivia: “Pickle duct tape.”
Teacher Cynthia Hammet, whose team took home second place, said she wanted to participate in the competition to get her students thinking about the future. Their team name, written in green letter across a yellow T-shirt: Hope for the Future.
“If they don’t look to what’s going to help our world, there’s going to be a downfall,” she said of her students. “They have to be the ones who come up with the ideas that are going to save the world.”
Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.