Brought sport research and design challenges into the 21st Century.

Lead Staff:
Jamie Larsen
Jodi Asbell-Clarke
Project Staff:
Teon Edwards
Elizabeth Rowe


SportsLab researched the effectiveness of working with an industry partner to create a proven infrastructure, the SportsLab design challenge platform, for hosting ongoing sport product design challenges for 12 to 18-year olds. EdGE at TERC’s SportsLab platform allowed for creating and hosting design challenges where participants collaborated, competed, and submitted a sport product design for consideration of top designs by an expert panel of judges.

A SportsLab design challenge consisted of a collaborative digital learning space for exploration of an on-line environment through a series of milestones and missions that were connected to real-world hands-on activities to apply and extend concepts for creating the components of a shoe (outsole, midsole, and upper) that would be integrated into a final shoe design. A SportsLab design challenge introduced youth to sport research, sport product design, and related careers and activities modeled after those found at a real sport product company, in this case, our primary industry partner, Nike.

The SportsLab platform provided tools to create a storyline, background on sport research, product design, and design thinking to engage a broad and diverse group of youths and motivates them in ways that increased their knowledge and interest in potential career paths. SportsLab leveraged students’ real-world interests to foster their abilities, interest and engagement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) problem-solving, and model 21st Century Skills and information and communication technologies (ICT).

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Teams of students worked with their teachers as mentors to make their way through an on-line collaborative environment and create deliverables for milestones that exhibited their understanding of content, concepts, and skills related to sport research and designing a sport product. The design challenge culminated in a competition where participating teams submitted a set of final deliverables (an Inspiration Board and Project Pitch) that were judged by a panel of experts: a sport researcher/designer, an athlete, and educator. Top designs received prizes from Nike.

SportsLab was developed using an iterative approach, working with educators and students in formal and informal spaces to help define feasibility, interest, and effectiveness of the SportsLab model. The researchers conducted two full tests of the online platform and a sub-set of real-world activities representative of a proposed year-long nationwide design challenge competition that can continue beyond the projects initial funding. The EdGE team worked with industry partners to provide background and expertise to help create assets integrated into the design challenge. Assets included videos related to tools, methods and careers in sport research and product design as well as datasets from athletes collected specifically for use by students participating in SportsLab.

Research Activity

SportsLab provided a unique and innovative approach to bring together project-based learning through a design challenge created in collaboration between educators and industry. SportsLab’s research results showed that it:

  • Engaged a broad and diverse group of youths through a design challenge that leveraged students’ real-world interests to foster their abilities, interest, and engagement in STEM problem-solving using both online and real-world hands-on learning experiences,
  • Exhibited broad application in diverse education settings, demonstrating the program’s ability to attract a wide range of audiences,
  • Integrated a digital narrative, original videos, and hands-on activities into a design challenge to help students to better understand an expanded opportunity for themselves in the STEM workforce,
  • Was highly motivating, even for students who did not see themselves as science learners.


The SportsLab project provided a model and development platform allowing industry partners and educators to work together to design, create, and manage real world design challenges. These design challenges introduced and connected students to interesting careers they might not otherwise know about. With modern industry engaged in a digital transformation, dependent on innovation and technologies that are rapidly changing, there is an ever-growing need to fill jobs with a larger and more diverse population of skilled and motivated workers. SportsLab provided a way for companies to connect with students using design challenges that were particularly useful for motivating students and encouraging development of STEM learning and 21st Century Skills (like collaboration, problem solving, and leadership) essential to companies hoping to meet their expanding workforce needs.


Hands On! Article

Opening the Door to 21st Century Careers through a Sports Research and Shoe Design Challenge

By The Sportslab Team

Read Here