Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Four Northwestern alumni design expanding snow boot

Illustration by Shveta Shah
The Sno-Gro boots can grow three sizes. The co-founders are working to grow their business as well.

When one McCormick senior learned about the pain her aunt experienced every time her children outgrew their shoes, she decided to put her skills to the test.

Last spring, Joanne Park (McCormick ’23) and three other NU seniors designed a shoe capable of keeping up with a growth spurt. The Sno-Gro Boot expands three sizes, which tackles the common household problem of children’s rapidly growing feet.

Sno-Gro Boots co-creator Benjamin Miller (McCormick ’23) said his senior manufacturing and design engineering capstone team spent a full quarter searching for a “real, right now problem” for their class assignment — but they could not have foreseen their product’s future.

“We had drilled down and found that the space of expandable seasonal footwear, like winter boots, was something that was a need,” Miller said.

The team agreed that winter boots should last for more than one season.

After discussing the matter with friends and family, Miller, Park, Callista Sukohardjo (McCormick ’23) and Sarah John (McCormick ’23) hit the ground running, developing a cost-effective winter boot that would not be thrown out the following year. 

Park, Miller, Sukohardjo and John spent several late nights at the Ford Center working to bring their vision to life, Sukohardjo said. They took inspiration from existing designs that could be expanded, like selfie sticks and accordions. 

Miller said the process involved plenty of trial and error.

“We prototyped probably 100 different designs,” Miller said, “I remember (our professor) telling us after the first quarter, ‘wow, you guys have a great problem. It’s going to be really hard to make it happen.’” 

Although the group members graduated last spring, Miller, Park and Sukohardjo continue to work on the Sno-Gro Boot. The boot has two provisional patents and the team is in the process of filing their non-provisional patent, they said. 

The trio is currently involved in discussions with manufacturers to turn the working prototypes they created for class into wearable prototypes. 

“We’re really just looking to make this a real thing we can give to people,” Miller said.

In the months following their graduation, the team members are still grateful for the opportunity NU afforded them. 

Park said a “massive” capstone budget made project development possible and that students should take advantage of what the university has to offer.

“The project we worked on definitely gave us a lot of opportunities to explore anything we wanted to do,” said Park.

The three co-founders still work their day jobs. They said balancing the product’s development with their work lives has been challenging, but they feel committed to seeing the process through.

“We’re invested in the project enough that we’re still going to be putting in some time and spending time outside of work to see what we can do,” Miller said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @elenamarielll

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