Material ConneXion member Kent State hosted their 4th Annual Fashion/Tech Hackathon January 27-29. MCX Materials Manager Dr. Gayatri Keskar joined the event as a mentor for students on wearables and smart clothing.
What an amazing experience! 36 hours full of excitement, hard work, exploration, and collaboration to unlock creativity and innovation, empowering the next generation of wearables and smart clothing.
Yes, I am talking about the 4th Annual Fashion/Tech Hackathon that just took place at Kent State University this weekend. This being my first hackathon, I was very anxious and, although I was there only for the first 18 hours as a mentor, I left feeling completely inspired, energized, and almost blown away by the top-notch facilities of TechStyle Lab and the coolest designsmerging fashion and technology. More than 130 high school and grad students from different schools and universities all over the US, including Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and California, participated in this event. It was a great opportunity for students to build a new, advanced wearable prototype or fashion product while getting their hands on the latest tech and meeting with companies looking to hire.
The opening ceremony presentations from Material ConneXion, Great lakes Biomimicry, and (dis)ABLED BEAUTY introduced students to some of the best material-, nature-, and people-inspired innovations, and challenged them to think outside the box with the help of these resources and mentors to solve problems they see in the world. There was a good mix of participants from new hackers, who had intensive brainstorming sessions with mentors to determine the best strategy, to experienced hackers, who knew exactly what they wanted to build and had a clear execution plan. Overall, students were very keen to learn and use advanced tools and technologies, such as digital embroidery, laser cutting and etching, and 3D printing in their projects.
Saturday morning, we got a brief tour of the (dis)ABLED BEAUTY exhibit. This exhibition aims to change the negative stigma associated with disability and features more than forty items, including hearing devices, canes, prosthetics, apparel, and other assistive devices. I particularly liked the MagnaReady Shirt, which was designed using a front magnetic closure and wrinkle freecotton oxford cloth to give autonomy to the wearer with limited dexterity mobility, and the ‘Flutter’ dress that gives vibro-tactile feedback in the direction of a loud sound or alarm to help those with hearing loss respond more intuitively to their external environment. I was really taken by the story of bionic pop star Viktoria Modesta and the entire collection that makes functionalfashion for people with physical disabilities.
During this event, I interacted with several teams and was amazed by the breadth of technological innovations that I saw across various projects, including an outdoor navigation jacket, charging school backpack, self-fitting bra, wearable jewelry, smart sports helmet, and automatic tie-selector. I left early and didn’t get to see the final presentations from students, but as Arthur Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” I really enjoyed being part of their incredible journey and can’t wait to go back next year.
Images courtesy of Melanie Nesteruk and Kent State University.