Often, students are introduced to the term “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the classroom. However, what they might not know is that these subjects are all around them — even in their favorite sports.
In fact, many of our revolutionary National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees have developed innovations related to athletics and athletic wear. To learn more about their global impact we invite you to read about them below:
Drawing on his 24 years of experience as the head track coach at the University of Oregon, Hall of Famer Bill Bowerman dedicated his career to improving athletes’ performance. From this mission came the desire to improve the design of athletic shoes. His “Waffle Trainer,” named for the waffle iron used to form the sole of the shoe, did this by providing excellent traction without the need for metal spikes. The design was an immediate success and in 1964, Bowerman and one of his former athletes, Phil Knight, formed Blue Ribbon Sports. A decade later the company changed its name to Nike and has since become one of the most iconic and innovative brands in the world.
In 1977, while completing her 30-mile-a-week running routine, Lisa Lindahl was frustrated with her normal bra causing severe discomfort. Realizing that nothing on the market existed to meet the exercise needs of women, she reached out to her childhood friend, costume designer Polly Smith, to make a prototype. With the help of Hinda Miller, who worked alongside Smith as a costume designer, the three Hall of Famers would go on to invent the world’s first sports bra, the Jogbra®, and form a company with the same name. Paired with the implementation of Title IX, the invention of the sports bra enabled women and girls across the country to participate in athletics with physical and emotional confidence.
While working at DuPont in the 1950s, chemist and NIHF Inductee Joseph Shivers invented one of the most significant clothing innovations of the 20th century: LYCRA® fiber (spandex). When he first joined the company in 1946, Shivers was tasked with finding an alternative material to replace the heavy rubber threads that were essential in garment manufacturing at the time. Compared to rubber, his unique and durable material had the ability to stretch up to five times its original length while still maintaining its elasticity. Today, Lycra has become a staple in the garment industry and is commonly used in sportswear because of its flexibility.
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To read more about how STEM impacts our everyday lives, we invite you to visit our blog.