Sustainability and Social Justice the Focus During Kent State’s Fashion Tech Hackathon
The Fashion Tech Hackathon, a cross-circular event hosted by the Kent State University School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, took place Jan. 24 – 26 and experienced record-breaking numbers in its seventh year. Over 150 students from 27 different universities throughout the U.S. and Canada took part in the 36-hour marathon-style competition aimed at creating fashionable, yet wearable game-changing technology.
During the competition, students are given 36 hours, (beginning Friday night at 8 pm and ending at 8 am on Sunday morning), to create a product in the form of a technology-enhanced garment or a wearable-responsive web application. The event aims to provide students with new skills allowing them to create innovative, wearable technology that will help redefine the future of fashion.
This year, students broke off into 36 teams composed of two to five students and spent the weekend developing wearable tech, with a focus on products that solve social justice or sustainable challenges.
Additionally, 2020 featured a strong knit-focus, led by programmers from Evolution St. Louis, Priority Designs and KSU. The knit representatives worked with student-groups who wanted to include a knit component in their final product. Garments were created on the school’s Stoll ADF machine. As a result, 14 of the 36 projects included a custom knitted textile creation.
Throughout the weekend, students were provided free meals, comfortable sleeping arrangements, and periods of “free-time” for stress-free breaks outside of the hacking. Participants enjoyed free admission to the Kent State University Museum along with ice-skating trips at the KSU Ice Arena, and free trips to the KSU Rec center for swimming.
Teams were given free access to the TechStyleLAB, the School of Fashion’s digital textile fabrication space, along with a variety of free electronic and textile materials. Participants also had access to 3D printing in the Kent Spark Innovation Studio and the Fashion School Library, allowing many teams the opportunity to bring their projects to life. A large number of mentors, judges and volunteers were on hand throughout the weekend to assist students with issues or questions. These mentors encouraged students to push boundaries beyond what they thought possible. Mentors, judges and volunteers consisted of faculty members from nine different universities, industry-experienced professionals, and community volunteers.
The event wrapped on Sunday morning in the KSU College of Architecture and Environmental Design where each team presented their creations to a panel of Hackathon judges and members of the Kent community.
Teams entered themselves to be judged into five main categories: Best Fashion Project That Utilizes Knit Techniques to Solve a Sustainability or Social Justice Challenge (sponsored by Evolution St. Louis); Best Concept that Addresses a User/Customer Experience That Encourages Sustainable Practice or Social justice (sponsored by The Burton D. Morgan Foundation); LaunchNet + Enventys sponsored Mentorship Awards for Most Market/Venture Potential; Wearable Technology, Solutions to Tackle a Social Justice Challenge (sponsored by KSU Design Innovation); Most Compelling Visual Message that Helps Communicate Social Justice or Sustainable Practice (sponsored by STOLL and KSU Fashion). Each winning team in the five categories received a $1,000 prize to be shared amongst the team members. Over $5,000 in prizes were awarded overall. Additionally, an award for the Most Diverse Team That Addresses Inclusivity and three honorable mention awards were handed out.
Team CoziPak won the award for Wearable Technology, Solutions to Tackle a Social Justice Challenge sponsored by KSU Design Innovation. Their product, a waterproof anti-theft bag, was designed to provide storage for belongings, shelter from the rain, and warmth from the cold. Said the team, “The homeless population has had an increase of 2.7% in the past year, bringing the total homeless population to over 560,000. Many of these people have no way of staying warm, dry, or a way to hold their possessions. We aim to solve all these problems with our Cozi Pak.”
The award for Best Fashion Project that Utilizes Knit Techniques to Solve a Sustainability or Social Justice Challenge (sponsored by Evolution St. Louis), went to Smart Filtration Infused Knitwear. Their team created a product that filters the air that the wearer is breathing, allowing the wearer to breathe easier. The piece covers the mouth, nose, and ears to prevent polluted air from getting into the respiratory system and is infused with soothing, essential oil to provide a better experience for the wearer. Their team also programmed the circuit to illuminate different colors and emit different sounds depending on the air quality, allowing individuals with impairments to use the product as well. The mask is intended to be used in wildfire pollution, smog, sickness, allergies and situations where the overall air quality has decreased. The students were inspired by the recent wildfires in Australia.The team collaborating with the knit lab technicians, producing a prototype on the Stoll digital knitting machine that comprised of a variety of knitwear techniques.
The award category for Best Concept that Addresses User/Customer Experience That Encourages Sustainable Practice or Social Justice Award (sponsored by The Burton D. Morgan Foundation), was presented to ADAwear for their coat that aims to improve user experience and facilitate ease of donning and doffing for wheelchair users. The garment helps to expand the range of garments available to individuals in wheelchairs. “As we took a modular design approach, our garment aims to promote and normalize the idea of creating every garment accessible to every individual,” said the team. ADAwearwas inspired by the social justice issue of physical abilities. “We were inclined to develop an adaptive garment that was human-centered and universal to all users. When researching further, we realized there was also a gap in the accessible clothing market for formal silhouettes. Thus, we sought to create a garment with a formal silhouette that could be worn by people with or without a disability.”
Team Sweater Weatherwon in the category: Most Compelling Visual Message that Helps Communicate Social Justice or Sustainable Practice, which was present by Stoll and KSU Fashion. They designed a prototype that provides additional insulation to an existing building that may be lacking in building systems efficiency. The membrane also opens and closes to allow heat in and out based on the outside temperature. The student team used the application Rhinoceros for the design and produced it using a laser cutter with acrylic glass and jersey knit fabrics, while also using the applications Fologram and Hololens to visualize the designs. Said the students, “We initially thought of social issues, specifically CO2 emissions in building systems. We brainstormed how to use fabrics to help battle this issue in buildings. We thought that this product allowed for a new envelope system that can be used on any building that could be lacking in CO2 efficiency.”
Three winners were announced for Most Market/Venture Potential, sponsored by KSU’s Launchnet and the product development firm, Enventys. Team ADAwear won their second award in this category. Also taking home the prize was team BackTrac. They designed a backpack that can detect how much weight is dangerous for students' backs, to deter students from carrying over-weighted backpacks. Team Eco Sole designed a shoe aimed at helping reduce society’s carbon footprint one step at a time through the implementation of recyclable and biodegradable materials like cotton and bamboo through the use of weaving/ knitting techniques.
Awards for the Most Diverse Team That Addresses Inclusivity and honorable mention were also handed out. Team Vyb took home the most diverse team award and the teams SubZer0 and Expeditionary and Fordante all received honorable mention. Each participant on the teams took home Boogie Boards provided by Kent Displays as prizes.
The Fashion/Tech Hackathon would not be possible without the many sponsors that help support this event. The Fashion/Tech Hackathon is presented in partnership with the Fashion school’s TechStyleLAB, Kent State's Design Innovation, high-tech knit company Evolutions St. Louis, cutting-edge fashion textiles tech brand, STOLL, the university’s LaunchNET entrepreneurial initiative and the Kent State computer science student organizationHacKSU.
KSU Fashion would also like to thank: Priority Design, Juzo, Ken & Karen Conley, Knit Engine, Kent State Division or Research and Sponsored programs, Spark Innovation Studio, Kent State School of Digital Sciences, FSO (Fashion Student Organization), InnovaKnits, Enventys Partners, Tiny Circuits, Hype, CAED ( College of Architecture and Environmental Design), and Kent Displays.
Dates for the 2021 Hackathon have already been set. The Hackathon will be held in the KSU School of Fashion's Rockwell Hall, Jan. 29 - 31, 2021.
Brittani Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Marketing Associate, Kent State School of Fashion.