Fit to Win

Innovative sports designs change the game for climbers

by Nicholas Nguyen • May 29, 2024

University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design industrial design students have earned recognition for the second year in a row for the FIT Sport Design Awards. The program recognizes professional and student designers across many categories including apparel and equipment for innovation, performance, and sustainability.

Recent graduate, Maha Alsagheer (B.S. I.D. '24) won in the "Sport Equipment / Mountaineering, Climbing, Hiking" category for Klime. The game-changing prosthetic foot for rock climbers was created in collaboration with people who have lower limb amputations. It features flexible rubber toes with a spring mechanism that mimics the natural flexibility and grip needed for climbing. The design also includes a replaceable rubber sole that extends the prosthetic's lifespan and makes it affordable for climbers to reach new heights.

above: Klime by alsagheer

Alsagheer originally intended to study nursing, but decided to pursue industrial design — winning this award affirms her choice to change career paths and encourages her to keep following her dreams.

"It shows that my hard work in making useful and innovative products is really helping, and it pushes me to keep getting better and making things that improve people's everyday lives," she said.

Next, she plans to keep working on the prototype and continue to test it to make it even better for people with different lower limb amputations. Eventually, she'd like to make it accessible and 3D printable for anyone who needs it.

above:.Tarsus Chalk Bag by Leath

Second-year student Mary Leath's Tarsus Chalk Bag won in the same category as Alsagheer. It features a magnetic opening with two exterior pockets, various brush loops, and a detachable chalk sock to allow climbers to focus without technical distractions.

Made from reinforced vinyl fabric with a waterpoof lining, the chalk bag minimizes chalk spillage while making it more accessible than typical drawstring bags. The recycled nylon outer shell makes cleaning the bag easy and durable, and it can be attached to belt loops on a climber's waist.

Leath drew inspiration from her hobby as an indoor bouldering enthusiast after hearing how some of her friends had issues with traditional chalk bags.

"I worked with my best friend over several months to develop the Tarsus Chalk Bag, and through that process, we went through many failures and prototypes to get to the final design, which she still uses today," she explained.

Her professor, George Chow, believes Leath's design and work ethic shows a level of maturity and design sensitivity beyond her years. He added, " The multiple rounds of user testing with many prototypes that she made herself was critical for the successful development of her design. This award is well deserved, and I hope she continues to pursue it to become a reality."

Flying High a Second Time

Toluwalase Adedipe's (B.S. I.D. '23) Flyte won a FIT Sport Design Award in the "Sportswear Design / Footwear" category. The basketball sneakers inspired by biomechanics found in nature previously won a Global Footwear Award. Last year, Adedipe received an honorable mention from FIT for his cycling helmet, Brisk. Now pursuing a master's in sports product design at the University of Oregon, he added, "I made up my mind that I wanted to push to be a winner the next year. So this award, to me, just shows that I am improving as a designer and that I can achieve anything I set my mind to!"

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This story was first published in the spring 2024 issue of DIMENSION Magazine. Read the magazine.


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