Using footwear to get kids hooked on STEM - Technical.ly Delaware

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Using footwear to get kids hooked on STEM

FAME's summer program features a focus on ergonomics this year, with some help from Middletown startup HX Innovations. Fashion and science meet.

There is more to footwear than color and style.

(Photo by Pexels user Ray Piedra, used under a Creative Commons license)

It’s summertime, and after more than a year of disrupted schoolwork, summer STEM and educational programs are more vital than ever in getting kids on track. For some Delaware kids, the highlight this summer may be learning ergonomics, or the bioscience of making things work with the human body for efficiency and safety. It’s something that is central to sports, as well as sneaker design.

Nicole Homer, cofounder of biotech footwear startup (and Startup302 grant recipient) HX Innovations, along with husband/cofounder Von Homer, first developed a curriculum for the FAME (The Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering) summer program in 2019 with a footwear assessment.

“We helped them understand the process of creating sneakers and how human movement was applied to that process,” Nicole Homer told Technical.ly. “The kids loved it. This year, [FAME is] back in person and they reached out to us, so what we’re doing is all about movement and getting out there and encouraging the kids to move.”

The process is similar to the HX Innovations human movement assessments that predict footwear performance in their real-world business. Using  IMU sensors, rising 7th through 10th graders will spend part of their summer measuring their biomechanics levels while wearing different pairs of shoes, and using that information to create designs for shoes that fit specific performance needs. Much of the program will be outdoors, where students will do human movement assessments, along with some indoor lab work.

Part of the appeal of the program, she said, is the behind-the-scenes look at the technology behind sneakers — and the kids’ realization that footwear is as much about science as it is about fashion.

“Some kids enjoy that they know more about sneakers, not just the colors but what goes on in creating footwear and how science is behind that process. Now they’re like, ‘This isn’t just footwear,'” she said. “We use a wearable sensor to calculate matrixes, and when they see what’s on the screen, it’s so fascinating for them.”

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Working with FAME is something the growing young startup plans to continue and expand. 3D models are on their wishlist for future iterations, if they receive enough funding for it.

“FAME is one of the oldest engineering programs for students of color, so working with them is always a treat for us,” she said. “It’s so much fun — it goes beyond being relevant in the ecosystem monetarily, it goes to effectively attracting a whole new generation of ‘crazy rocket scientists,’ and I think that part, for us, is priceless.”

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