SEAS Design Team Seizes the ‘Real-World’- Eliza Martin

This past week, the SEAS Design Team took a step into the ‘real-world.’ We’ve begun to move away from solely discussing our conceptual idea of an insole to assist with plantar fasciitis, to actually begin the process to create a prototype of our idea. Of course, prior to the creation of any prototype, we need to have a clear idea of the materials that we would like to use in the prototype. The materials used in the creation of our insole will have a HUGE impact on the comfort and durability of the insole (two of our interpreted needs that are extremely important to us). We began to research materials last week, and the amount of information available about all materials on the vast inter-web was shocking! In fact, the amount of information was so overwhelming, that it became difficult to discern the differences between certain materials.  During the time that I spent researching, I found one site extremely helpful. The first site is called MatWeb and allows for the user to search for a certain product and allows the user to view all imaginable physical and chemical properties of the product. Additionally, MatWeb allows for the user to compare products.

Original screenshot of results of a MatWeb search  for Plastazote (a material commonly used in insoles)
Original screenshot of results of a MatWeb search for Plastazote (a material commonly used in insoles)

After researching extensively on the materials available, we began to think of materials that we would like to potentially use in our prototype. On October 17, this past Friday, the entire class of Biomedical Innovation took a field trip to look at different materials commonly used in the creation of products. While I was not able to go on the field trip due to an obligation to another class that I am currently in, I was able to talk to my teammates who went on the field trip and got a lot of great input on the materials used in the insoles of shoes right now. They were able to look at and try on many shoes and were able to examine why certain shoes were more comfortable than others. From our previous interviews with potential users of our product, we know that the ability to combat plantar fasciitis and the comfort of the insoles are the most important aspects of the insole. Quite obviously, heels were much more uncomfortable than flats, but Stephanie and Andrea quickly realized that some heels and flats were much more comfortable than others due to the insoles that were already in them. Stephanie and Andrea found that the pink flip flops pictured below were extremely comfortable due to the foam like material used. The flip flops directly to the left of the pink flip flops (gold) were extremely uncomfortable due to the lack of cushioning.

Original photo of flip-flops that were analyzed during the field trip
Original photo of flip-flops that were analyzed during the field trip

We noted that the less comfortable shoes were less expensive than those that were comfortable, so we know that creating a comfortable insole will require a moderate amount of money as the right combination of materials must be found. We are looking forward to creating a prototype and deciding on our materials in the next few weeks!

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