Miss America contestant to walk the walk in computer-coded shoes

Patricia Ford, a graduate of Georgia Tech with a passion for Excel spreadsheets, will march in a prepageant parade in battery-powered heels packing a microcontroller and an accelerometer.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
Enlarge Image

Miss Georgia 2016, Patricia Ford, investigates the electronics in her fancy shoes for the first time.

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Miss Georgia hopes to wear a crown on her head at the end of the Miss America pageant Sunday, and she'll strut toward that goal with high-tech shoes on her feet.

Ryan Beckmann, a Georgia Tech electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate who's specializing in wearable computing, coded the microcontroller for the shoes. In each of the hollowed-out heels, he placed a tiny compass and accelerometer that communicate with the controller to change the light patterns on the outside of the shoes.

The heels also feature a mini version of the Atlanta skyline, by industrial design student Jordan Thomas, who added mini hexagons that light up like stars. The word "Tech," for Georgia Tech, embellishes the back of each shoe.

Enlarge Image

The word "Tech" for Georgia Tech is on the back of each shoe.

Steven Norris/Georgia Tech

This isn't the first time a Miss Georgia has worn high-tech heels made at Georgia Tech to the Show Us Your Shoes Parade in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Two years ago, Maggie Bridges, then a student at the school, donned 3D-printed shoes featuring a finely detailed laser-cut grille with 3D-printed headlights; a laser-cut pattern on the heels; and little 3D-printed wheels, complete with tread details, along the sides. That marked the first time a Miss America contestant had worn 3D-printed footwear.

The Miss America pageant airs in the US on Sunday at 6 p.m. PT on the ABC network. Here's hoping at least a few of the contestants wear evening gowns programmed to live-tweet.