Robert E. Lee High School senior, Royland Black, loves everything about football; everything except getting his toes stepped on by other players wearing cleats. What began merely as an advanced level engineering and development class assignment has now gained significant yardage in becoming a real product Royland feels could positively impact the sports industry.
At the beginning of the school year, Royland and his classmates in the Project Lead the Way capstone engineering senior class at the Tyler ISD Career and Technology Center were tasked with researching, developing and testing their own inventions. Royland saw the opportunity and ran with his idea for what he calls TUFFTOE; a product that would help reduce pain and injury caused by being stepped on while playing sports. He immediately began going through the engineering design process to identify, develop, design and question his ultimate goal.
“The Project Lead the Way curriculum we use in Tyler ISD's engineering classes is nationally recognized for its ability to engage students in compelling, real-world challenges,” DeAnna Molloy, engineering design and development teacher, said. “These experiences help students become better collaborators and thinkers, and give them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.”
TUFFTOE is a flexible, durable material that can be worn inside the cleat to provide protection to the top part of the foot and toes. Its shape is slender to sit on top of the foot then expands as it covers the toes.
Royland has spent countless hours researching the most effective design techniques for getting TUFFTOE to function the way he wants it to and refining its design using a high level engineering software program provided in his classroom. He uses this software to print out 3D copies of his prototypes.
Royland has also conducted surveys and marketability studies, one of which was to the East Texas Regional Coaches Association, to determine how the product would be received in the sports community. Coaches were very receptive and said TUFFTOE would be a welcome addition to their uniform.
“I have received a lot of positive input and feedback from district athletic trainers and coaches,” Royland said. “The next steps are to keep performing market research and analysis, testing and refining my design and complete the paperwork for the patent process.”
That’s right! With help from Ms. Molloy, Royland has begun the patent process for TUFFTOE.
“I spent a lot of time researching if a similar product existed and if so, are any of them patented. I didn’t see anything like TUFFTOE, so we have applied to receive the first round of paperwork, or the packet, to get the process started,” he said.
Royland plans to have a successful engineering career after college and even turned down a football scholarship because the school did not have an engineering program.
“Without the engineering courses I have completed in Tyler ISD, I would not have the skills or knowledge to be able to create TUFFTOE. This class in particular encourages a higher level of critical thinking on a daily basis.”
“I am so proud of the way Royland has used all of what he has been taught to design such a great product that will benefit many athletes in the future,” Ms. Molloy said. “He has worked extremely hard to develop his product and produce the prototype that is starting his future as an engineer.”
Royland and his classmates will display all of their inventions during a Trades Fair scheduled in April at the Career and Technology Center.