SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Representatives from Keen Footwear paid a visit to Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School on Tuesday, Sept. 25, as part of their East Coast tour to demonstrate their company’s technological capabilities.

Based in Portland, Oregon, Keen Footwear is a lifestyle company in that specializes in water sandals, outdoor hiking boots and recently other types of apparel. However, their approach to design is unique: 80 percent of their footwear is produced by a robot called the “Uneekbot.”

Designed by 17-year-old Oscar Williamson, the robot is designed to complete a pair of shoes in eight minutes -- a process that would ordinarily take three hours by a human hand. 

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Representatives Nani Tomas (Field Marketing Coordinator), Scott Owen (Innovation Manager) and Benjamin Kolligs (Robotics Engineer) showed students how the robot is able to function to rapidly and effectively

As of now, the “Uneekbot” only has the ability to make one type of shoe. However, the company is working to expand on this idea in order for the robot to produce a majority of their footwear products.

“It was really interesting to see how the robot worked and it was surprising to see how it could actually make shoes,” junior Tara Wolman said.

Throughout the school day, students from multiple physics, computer-aided design, engineering technology and computer programming classes had the opportunity to visit the Keen trailer and view the “Uneekbot.” During the presentations, students viewed a demonstration of the robot at work and learned some of the specifics behind the machine.

Technology Education teacher Katherine Hollenback organized the Keen company visit based on her prior love for their products.

“I wanted students to see what’s out there in the real world as far as engineering, technology and design and just be inspired,” Hollenback said.

The company aimed to show students that there are engineering opportunities beyond occupations at engineering companies. They hope to inspire the next generation of young innovators.

“We want to point out that engineering is not only limited to being an engineer,” Nani Tomas said. “You can also work in apparel, you can work in graphic design even. There’s a lot of overlaps and opportunities.”

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