UC's DAAP, Hughes High School team for TREAD Project

Three University of Cincinnati Industrial Design students are empowering and educating students at Hughes High School through a footwear design studio as part of their senior thesis, the TREAD Project.

Charley Hudak, Vanessa Melendez, and Jince Kuruvilla, are fifth-year industrial design students in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning and have been networking for nearly five years to bring TREAD Project to life.

The design studio was somewhat inspired by a program at Carnegie Mellon University, Sneakerology Course, which focuses on the culture and history of sneakers, not design.

In its first year as a footwear design studio, the TREAD Project became part of UC's ID curriculum thanks to the support of Dale Murray, associate professor and coordinator of Industrial Design, and Phyllis Borcherding, associate professor and coordinator of Fashion Design and Development. After the success of its initial year, the design team decided to share the project at the high school across the street from UC's Uptown campus.

The TREAD Project is a seven-week design student for 25 Hughes students who meet for three sessions per week. The last session each week features a footwear industry professional, including representatives from Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Jordan, Toms Shoes, Vans and more.

In classes, students learn how to design with markets in mind, solve design problems and creatively sketch their concepts of the perfect shoes, which they will present to a panel of experts on the last day of the studio, May 25.

"It gives them a different opportunity to realize their skill sets can be applied to any problem," Melendez says. "They're using different thinking skills to solve problems instead of memorization or standardized tests."

The project has particular significance at Hughes, where the dress code allows only black or white shoes. The students' shoe brands become a way for them to express their personalities.

While the studio teaches students about footwear design, it also inspires them to take more active roles in their lives, including getting to school every day, applying to college or landing a job after graduation.

"There are opportunities that not all of these students are aware of," Hudak says "Creative problem-solving goes beyond the education and design process."

Hudak and his partners, all of whom are graduating this June, hope to expand the curriculum into a working non-profit model that could be replicated nationwide.

Do Good:

Support the Tread Project. Donate money or supplies so tread can continue to teach inner-city students.

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• Get informed. Visit the Tread Project online to learn more about the progress and see cool pictures, too!

By Jayna Barker
Follow Jayna on Twitter @jaynabarker.

Photo courtesy Tread Project
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