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Young Women's Academy students design parkour shoe for Nike

YWA Parkour

(YOUNG WOMEN’S STEAM RESEARCH & PREPARATORY ACADEMY -- March 8, 2019) — Four Young Women’s STEAM prep sixth graders put their best parkour foot forward in a national Nike shoe design competition and walked away with fifth place.

The four sixth graders, who were among hundreds of teams nationally that submitted a shoe designed for parkour athletes, spent weeks researching parkour before developing their Gecko Shoe. Parkour athletes are known to run, leap and climb working their way from one point to another in a complex environment, without any equipment and trying to do it in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Their shoe needed to reflect this and give parkour athletes the edge to be competitive and spry.

“Our inspiration for the actual design of the shoe was geckos because they have a lot of grip and they run around a lot, so it kind of reminded of us of parkour,” said Elyssa Flores. “We did a lot of research. We wanted to make sure the materials still worked would be best for different types of things that they do.”

The four students were among 11 teams throughout the YWA campus competing but the only to catch the judges’ attention.  

“Although we can't give individual feedback, we can say that the judges took into account the criteria shared with students, as well as looked through their individual lenses of sport researcher/designer, athlete, or educator,” said Jamie Larsen from the SportsLab Team in a letter to YWA. “The top designs checked off all or most of the criteria, as well as caught the eyes of the judges in some way to make them stand out.”

STEM teacher Haleigh Kneedler watched the students pour through extensive research, develop the eye-catching gecko-inspired designs and definitely sees why their project received recognition. 

“I’m ready proud of them,” she said. “They are really hard workers and innovative thinkers.” 

Madison Mendoza talked with ease about the needs of the parkour athlete and what kind of shoe best fit their needs. 

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “Itdoesn’t matter only what the shoe looks like so much as the materials that into it. It has to have grip and it can’t be too heavy and it has to be sturdy so it doesn’t rip when you’re jumping around a lot.”

Addison Rodriguez added: “It’s about how the foot moves and how comfortable it is. It required a lot of research on what goes into the materials and a little bit of math because you have to put the pieces together.” 

Each of the teammates spoke like experts when talking about their new-found knowledge of parkour, its techniques and shoes. 

“My teammates worked hard to get into competition,” said America Guzman. “We were surprised to make this far but we all worked together to make this shoe succeed and we were really good teammates to each other.” 

The whole experience gave the students a new appreciation for parkour and even sparked an interest in trying the sport. 

“It’s like a playground,” Mendoza said. “But you make your own playground.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photo by Leonel Monroy