Nike and DU: Improving the Future of Performance Footwear
University of Denver undergraduate students lead a design project to improve the stability of basketball shoes
One of the most popular athletic shoe companies in the world is partnering with the University of Denver. “Nike has a high regard for innovation and we strive to be the most innovative company period,” says Bryan Conrad, senior researcher for Nike basketball. Conrad says that’s exactly why Nike is eager to work with mechanical and electrical engineering students at DU.
DU undergraduate students’ latest mission: work on a design project related to the stability of basketball shoes, with the goal of enhancing an athlete’s performance and reducing injury. “I chose this project mainly because I’m also a student athlete,” says Stella Norman, a mechanical engineering student in the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science.
“The project will help confirm the stability of the shoe so athletes are able to wear them without being injured or causing serious damage while playing.”
Daniel Kim, an electrical engineering student with a minor in medical physics says this research project combined both of his academic interests. “What stood out to me in particular in this project was that it was combining engineering and I guess some degree of medical field as well.”
The project is part of the capstone design experience, where senior undergraduate students work on high-impact, real world problems for external customers. Throughout the year, this team of 6 mechanical and electrical engineering students worked under the guidance of Peter Laz, Professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Laz is part of DU’s Center for Orthopaedic Biomechanics, which has expertise in computational modeling and measurements of human movement related to sports performance and orthopaedic implants.
The center, supported by the National Science Foundation, has specialized equipment to capture the motions and forces on the body during activity. The high speed stereo radiography system allows measurements of joint motion with sub-mm accuracy. Laz says it is one of 6 or 7 in the world.
“We’re in the business of making athletes better. So we want to have a way that we can evaluate footwear in the same way that athletes will use it on the court or in the field. I love working with the University of Denver. They’re very open to working with industry.”
Nike will use the students’ innovation to help improve the design of performance basketball shoes. To protect proprietary information, company reps won’t say exactly what the innovation is, but they say it’s going to give them a competitive edge.
“We’re in the business of making athletes better. So we want to have a way that we can evaluate footwear in the same way that athletes will use it on the court or in the field,” says Conrad. “I love working with the University of Denver. They’re very open to working with industry.”
In fact, more than 20 University of Denver alumni are employed at Nike.
The new Dream Team - DU and Nike - partnering to apply new, innovative technologies to improve high performance athletic shoes. Given the success of the project, both sides are excited to continue working together. Only time will tell what great innovative ideas DU and Nike will come up with in the future.