NASA and DC enlist alum Justin Chambers to design the world’s coolest robot shoes

In the DARPA Robotics Challenge, teams of software designers and robotics engineers compete to develop robots capable of assisting human recovery efforts in man-made and natural disasters. NASA’S Team Valkyrie approached Justin Chambers (BFA, Product, ’14), and 3D designer Chad Knight and asked if they would “design a cool shoe for our robot.” Chambers’ and Knight’s answer: Affirmative!

The above slide show illustrates the team’s iterative process that yielded a pair of shoes that quite possibly redefined the meaning of a cool pair of kicks. Chambers and Knight’s design comes complete with rover-style treads designed to facilitate the literal version of moon walking—no Michael Jackson moves necessary. 

For anyone interested in how a designer comes to land a dream gig designing branded footwear for iconic organizations like DC and NASA, Chambers traces the unlikely journey that lead him to the launchpad for his rocket-ride career in the essay below:

Baseball, basketball and skateboarding were the sports that got me through my childhood and the awkward years of high school. When I got to community college I felt lost and ended up getting kicked out for bad grades. I didn’t even know it was possible to be kicked out of community college. Who gets kicked out of community college? Boy was that a wake-up call; probably one of the biggest moments in my life. It made me go back and revisit the things that I loved, like:

  • Growing up playing sports and being able to wear the coolest performance shoes.
  • Getting my first iPod in high school, which lead me down a path filled with everything Apple.
  • Being the kid in school that everyone knew could draw.

These were things I loved but were overlooked due to my life of sports. So when the time came to find a new path for my future, I knew it would have something to do with design. My love for Apple products lead me to industrial design. I thought it was amazing that there are people out there whose job it was to design pro model shoes for the athletes I admire. Crazy! I had found my path and the way to get there was through Art Center.

I’ve spent the last year at DC shoes designing products for some of the best athletes in the world; and I feel right at home. I know I’m doing what I love and what I was truly meant to be doing. Who knew getting kicked out of community college would lead to a life of design?

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