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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Design the Ultimate Climbing Shoe

Can you guess why designing a climbing shoe is a great way to celebrate National Waffle Day? It’s because waffles aren’t just for breakfast they also can make a pattern that creates an exceptional sole for a climbing shoe! So after you finish off a plate of waffles, you can follow the steps below to design the ultimate climbing shoe!


Materials Needed

  1. Paper
  2. Pencil, crayons, colored pencils and/or markers


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Print out this climbing shoe template or draw a shoe on a piece of paper. Don’t forget to think about the sole (or bottom) of your shoe!
  2. Draw or color on your paper to start designing a shoe for climbing rocks or mountains in cold weather.
  3. Find inspiration in nature by thinking about features that keep animals protected from the elements, like scales, feathers, fur and blubber. Think about animals that climb mountains or steep hills. What is special about their feet and other features? How could this inspire your shoe design?
  4. Think of a name for your newly invented climbing shoe and write it at the top of the paper.
  5. Take this activity a step further by using materials from around your home to create a prototype of your shoe!

What Are We Discovering?

National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee William Bowerman spent 24 years as head track coach at the University of Oregon, and one of his top priorities was to make shoes lighter and faster. His most impactful innovations focused on the outer soles of shoes. He designed lightweight models that had good traction without metal spikes and that were appropriate for a variety of surfaces, including artificial turf.

Bowerman’s Waffle Trainer sole, first prototyped using a waffle iron, featured raised nubs similar to those on modern mountain bike tires. These nubs gave the shoe traction while maintaining a low weight. Bowerman earned multiple patents related to athletic shoe design, and in partnership with one of his former athletes, Phil Knight, co-founded Blue Ribbon Sports, later renamed Nike®.


Looking for Even More STEM Fun? Check Out Camp Invention!

If your child enjoys STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities, they will love Camp Invention®, NIHF’s nationwide K-6 STEM summer camp. To learn more about this year’s brand-new program and to reserve your spot today, we invite you to visit our website.

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