A University of Wyoming graduate recently won a Nike design challenge.

Brett Drake, a graduate of UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, won the Nike Ease Challenge, a contest to see who could produce the most innovative sneaker designs for athletes of all abilities, according to a UW press release.

The competition focused on footwear designs that would help athletes, including those with disabilities, put on, secure and take off their shoes.

Drake said his interest in basketball and Nike products began early in life and influenced his decision to enter the competition.

“I started sketching the day I saw the competition announced,” Drake says in a statement. “As an engineer, I work in concepts based around design and I’ve always liked it.”

Drake’s design took cues from rear-entry snowboard bindings. The shoes could be slipped on easily, rather than pulled on using a hinged heel. The shoes are secured using lightweight, but powerful magnets. Drake says he wanted his design to keep the aesthetic and performance of Nike’s original design, but make them easier for anyone to use.

Drake used a design program he mastered at UW as part of his architectural engineering focus -  AutoCAD-  to create the submissions. After sending his designs to Nike, he found out that he was one of three finalists who would present their designs to Nike at their world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

Drake said he realized the greater impact his design will have only after he was announced the winner.

“The greater good that came from this, I only realized that after I was announced the winner,” he says in a statement. “I had some people who I didn’t know contact me and say, ‘My son can’t wear shoes and, with this, he can enjoy the sports he loves.’ I got the bigger picture of what this is truly all about after that."

Along with the $50,000 first prize, Drake will be collaborating with Nike in the prototyping phase and begin testing his innovation with athletes of all abilities.

Drake credited his UW education for helping him succeed in the competition, saying the smaller campus provided an interpersonal connection with professors.