Automotive industry leftovers fuel Korey West’s dreams of educating third-world children.
He envisions recycling tires, seat belts and carpet from cars to make shoes from the scraps. He wants to give those shoes to children in places like South America and Africa, where children walk miles to school and risk injuring their bare feet, he said.
He presented his vision for “Junkyard Shoes” as his final project for Indiana University Kokomo’s Innovation Symposium, a class intended to make students think about global issues and what they can do to solve the world’s problems.
After a semester of reading about and researching philanthropy, the environment and technology, students traveled to England and Scotland where they met people working in those areas. They also visited museums and ecological sites.
“As they study historical and current innovators and innovations, they practice thinking outside the box and examine new ways to solve problems,” said Karla Stouse, senior lecturer in English, who leads the trip.
Student projects included plans to create a microbial fuel cell, encourage a sense of community among Frankfort’s diverse populations, develop a workshop to help caregivers promote active learning in dementia patients, build a travel table from recycled plastics and develop a program to bring Afghan refugees to IU Kokomo.
West, who completed his degree in communication arts with the class, came up with his idea based on mission trips he’s taken. He then studied the TOMS shoe company, which offers customers a chance to send a pair of shoes to someone else for each pair they purchase for themselves.
Stouse said the program’s goal is to encourage students to think beyond getting a grade in a class.
“Thinking is a skill that has somehow become lost in education,” she said. “The world needs thinkers with the courage to innovate, to try new approaches and take the risks necessary to make positive changes. If we are not going to teach and encourage students to step up and help fix the world’s problems, what will the world look like 50 years from now?”