Kent State Explores Growing Wearable Technology Industry With Fashion/Tech Hackathon Weekend

University holds only collegiate hackathon focused on developing wearable technology prototypes in the nation

Photo 1 from Kent State's Fashion/Tech Hackathon

The wearable technology industry is expected to grow to become a $30 billion market within the next five years, and Kent State University is laying the groundwork to make an impact in the field. 

“The emerging wearables industry offers a wealth of research and economic development opportunities for this region,” said Todd Diacon, Kent State’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Kent State University is positioned well to play a significant role in the advancement of this area with our top notch Liquid Crystal Institute, the Fashion School as well as our interdisciplinary School of Digital Sciences. Our Fashion/Tech Hackathon weekend offers the region the opportunity to build a solid foundation for wearables exploration and the goal of long-term development of this industry."

“Liquid crystals are well known for their application in displays but have much broader applications as sensors,” said John L. West, Ph.D., Kent State’s Trustees Research Professor. “We are now incorporating this temperature-sensing ability of liquid crystals into textiles. These responsive textiles will find applications in fashion and for biomedical sensors. The upcoming fashion/tech event will provide a venue to introduce the liquid crystal textiles to the participants and see how they use them in innovative wearable applications.”

The fashion and technology focused weekend, running Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, 2015, will include a national 40-hour student prototyping hackathon, an academic research symposium and regional business alley. Additionally, NorTech, a technology-focused economic development organization, will convene companies from Northeast Ohio and across the country to kick-off the Wearable and Embedded Technologies Consortium (WETeC). The mission of the consortium is to scale and accelerate the manufacturing and commercialization of wearable and embedded electronics by U.S.-based businesses. 

Photo 2 from Kent State's Fashion/Tech Hackathon“Wearable devices represent a unique opportunity for our region,” said NorTech Director of Cluster Acceleration Rick Earles. “Northeast Ohio has extraordinary capabilities in this growing technology field.  The Fashion/Tech Hackathon allows us to introduce students to some of the most innovative wearable tech companies.”

This is the second year for the fashion/tech hackathon, the first and only collegiate hackathon focused on developing wearable technology prototypes in the nation. Organized by Kent State’s Blackstone LaunchPad, Fashion School, Liquid Crystal Institute, School of Digital Sciences, Department of Computer Science and the student organization Hacksu, the collaborative event is expected to draw more than 250 students, researchers and business leaders from across the United States.

“We are excited to bring together students, university members and industry leaders in the wearable technology space for cross-disciplinary exploration,” said Kate Harmon, associate director of Kent State’s Blackstone LaunchPad. “With more than 100 talented students from across 40 universities and three countries already signed up to attend from such prestigious institutions as MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Duke and the University of British Columbia, we are psyched to see what types of wearable technology prototypes will be developed by the students, the possible commercial applications of those inventions and the general networking and business development opportunities available with the wearable tech companies in attendance.”

New to this year’s event is the addition of an academic research symposium. 

“The Fashion School at Kent State has created our first ‘TechStyleLAB Symposium’ to connect with the hackathon in which a competitive submission of papers/presentations on the subject of fashion and technology has resulted in the selection of 13 presentations to be given by researchers from five different institutions in the U.S. and U.K.,” said J.R. Campbell, professor and director of Kent State’s Fashion School. Co-chaired by Campbell and the Fashion School’s Assistant Professor and Fashion Technologist Margarita Benitez, the TechStyleLAB Symposium will address topics related to the intersection of fashion and technology and offer the opportunity for university-industry collaborative discussions.

The weekend activities will be hosted at Kent State’s Rockwell Hall, home of the Fashion School. For more information about how to participate or to become a sponsor of the fashion/tech hackathon weekend, visit

To watch a video from last year’s Fashion/Tech Hackathon at Kent State, visit 

For more information about Kent State, visit

About NorTech
NorTech is a technology-focused organization that strengthens Northeast Ohio’s economic vitality by accelerating the pace of innovation in the region.

NorTech is using its expertise in emerging industries to foster an innovation environment that provides companies, higher education and research institutions, and individuals of diverse backgrounds with new opportunities for collaboration that create jobs, attract capital and have long-term, economic impact.

NorTech also connects with government leaders and other influencers to raise the visibility of Northeast Ohio’s technology assets, position the region as an innovation hub and attract resources.

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, NorTech will join forces with Team NEO, another economic development organization, under a new regional competitiveness strategy that aims to help Northeast Ohio adapt rapidly to changes in the economy and be more competitive globally. The new organization combines NorTech’s industry knowledge and focus on innovation with Team NEO’s attraction, retention and expansion work.

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Photo 1 from Kent State’s Fashion/Tech Hackathon
A student works on a vest that would charge a cellphone during Kent State University’s inaugural Fashion/Tech Hackathon last year. Kent State will once again explore the growing wearable technology industry by hosting the hackathon Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2015.

Photo 2 from Kent State’s Fashion/Tech Hackathon
Students who participated in the 2014 Fashion/Tech Hackathon at Kent State University present their prototype, the GlowShirt, a black, long-sleeved shirt with neon lights and retroreflective details. The shirt’s lighting feature was made so that bikers could be seen more easily by drivers at night.

Media Contacts:
Kate Harmon,, 330-672-6783 
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 03:10 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 28, 2023 05:23 PM
Kate Harmon