Most ballet pointe shoes are hand-made, expensive and provide little protection from the pressure put on dancers' feet.
Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Noelani Ho, inspired by the young dancers she teaches in the Austin neighborhood, set out to solve these problems.
Her design of an insert made from an orthotic material recently took first place in the Chicago Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
Noelani researched patents, pored over medical journals and consulted with an orthopedic surgeon to come up with a prototype.
Pointe shoes, which allow dancers to dance on their tiptoes, cost between $60 and $90. Noelani, who has earned grant money to buy dance supplies for her Austin students, wanted to develop a design her young dancers could afford.
"This has opened my eyes a lot," Noelani said of her project. "I grew up thinking I would be a doctor or a lawyer. My heart is here and maybe I can do something with both science and dance."