My team, composed of Industrial Designers and Mechanical Engineers, designed and created affordable shoes for children in Ethiopia by request of Georgia Tech and Emory University professors. The project was displayed at Georgia Tech’s Capstone Design Expo 2015 where we received Best Overall Project in Industrial Design. “Duka” means footprint. We aim to make a lasting mark on the Ethiopian population through prevention and education of neglected tropical diseases


Ethiopia is among the fifteen poorest countries in the world, 75% of the population living on one dollar a day as farmers. 60 percent of Ethiopia’s health problems are preventable diseases, including neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs are caused by lack of hygiene and repeated contact with irritating toxins and parasites in the soil.

Shoes, especially leather, are seen as a status symbol, so they are only worn in social situations (like at church) to avoid getting dirty. Therefore, rural Ethiopians often walk barefoot on rocky or muddy terrain for travel and work, making them highly susceptible to contracting NTDs on their feet. Clinics are available for disease education, treatment, and custom-made shoes, but there are social stigmas associated with having NTDs. It can even impact household income and prevent marriage because of the misconception it’s untreatable. The impact of these diseases goes far beyond symptoms and discomfort. For long term remission and prevention of these diseases proper foot hygiene and protective footwear are necessary.


Currently, there is no affordable and effective footwear available in rural Ethiopia to protect against NTDs. Because many people in developing nations lack access to shoes, some companies have programs to provide shoes. These solutions are often not waterproof, durable, or secure, and are donated to those in need. Donating the shoes means the economy is not stimulated through manufacturing jobs or selling in local markets.




A specification chart was created to document all of the necessary specifications. These included fit, comfort, weight, traction, durability, drying time, cost, appeal, and local production. The shoes must survive use in the rugged terrain of Ethiopia for a year (as per request of our mentors). To survive the terrain the shoes must resist deterioration from interactions with the ground, primarily friction. The shoe will also need to be puncture resistant to protect the foot from any sharp objects that may be found in their environment.


In order to protect from NTDs, we’d like the shoe to cover the entire foot up to at least the ankle. These areas are susceptible because they are the ones most likely to come in contact with the irritating soil. Additionally, the shoes must be capable of air drying completely overnight to be used the next day. Part of daily life for the users is farming, and during the related activities it is expected that the shoes will become wet.

Cost was one of our most important specifications. The sponsors of this project have specified that the shoes are to cost no more than $2.


The team started with a morph chart that brainstormed all the solutions for individual functions. Concepts were created by combining different solutions. Then, each concept was evaluated based on weighted criteria (cost, durability, preventing NTDs, etc.)

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After evaluating the concepts, the team improved each where they scored low, and developed four more detailed concepts, Zipper Raincoat, Double Pull Tie, Tire Sneaker, and Knitted Tire. These were again evaluated by the same weighted criteria.


Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 3.14.41 PMBecause of my sewing background, I took each concept and tested different patterns until the desired form met the criteria for each. We tested different materials, coatings, and forms. We used as close of material as possible to what would be available in Ethiopia. Tests were designed to evaluate slip resistance, durability, fit, drying time, and cost.


The slip-on shoe was meant to be the cheapest and minimal protection. To keep costs low, I made a two-piece pattern. Initially, a wool felt upper and cork sole were used because of their water-resistance and ease of manipulation. We eventually decided on a EVA sole and a waxed canvas and polyester upper.



The pull-tie was originally a zip-on shoe with a breathable inner layer and waterproof outer layer. We started with a EVA sole but discovered pre-molded soles were available for a similar price in Ethiopia. The pattern started as one piece that wrapped around the foot and morphed into a 3 piece loafer style pattern. We added a tab to the back to easily put the shoe on. The pull tie allows for a snug fit around the ankle to keep out debris.pulltiePulltie


I practiced patterning the sneaker with felt and cork, but we had planned on making this shoe more durable and a tighter fit. It’s a 3 piece pattern with several layers of fabric. The top layer is waterproof, the middle is a comfortable batting, and the inside is a breathable cotton. Ethiopians recycle a lot of tires, so we used a tire for the sole. The hardest part was cutting the tire to the correct shape and assuring it was water tight. Because of it’s bacteria resistance we added a cork insole for comfort.



The three solutions designed, made, and tested were meant to accommodate different price and durability levels. The slip on shoe was the cheapest at only 81 cents a pair, and the other two exceeded our $2 limit. We believe that with assistance from NGOs or producing more shoes will help bring the cost down.allshoes

We also tested for Slip Resistance, Durability, Comfort, Security, and Water Permeability. The sneaker came in first, slip on second, and pull-tie last. We assumed the pull-tie would be best, but because of the lack of secure adhesion of the upper to the sole, it failed most of the tests.Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.36.54 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.36.47 AM


Each semester, Georgia Tech showcases student work designing, building, and testing prototypes with real world applications. Teams display and pitch their inventions and marketability to a panel of judges, invited guest, media, and their peers. Duka won Best Overall Project for Industrial Design.


Date – May 2015
Team – Ruoxi Wang, Brett Carlson, Carlos Vivas, Hayden Cogswell
Skills – Sewing and patternmaking, Ergonomics
Mentor – Professors from Emory and Georgia Tech involved in NTDs, Dr. Colton and Prof. Wilson from Georgia Tech