Innovation Through Collaboration: Students Create Wearable Tech Ventures in 24 Hours
A foot sensor that can evaluate and correct one’s running gait won top prize at the Kent State University Blackstone LaunchPad’s "Innov8athon II: Fashion/Tech Hackathon," the nation’s first collegiate wearable tech hackathon.
Developed by Mitchell Gillespie, a Kent State sophomore physics major, the Miracle Sole was created to promote proper running form. Gillespie was one of 15 presenting teams to pitch their ideas and prototypes in front of a panel of regional leaders and entrepreneurs that included Rebecca Bagley, president and CEO of NorTech; Kerri Breen, vice-president of external finance, JumpStart Inc.; Charles Stack, co-founder, general partner and CEO, FlashStarts Inc.; John West, Ph.D., Trustees Research Professor with the Liquid Crystal Institute; J.R. Campbell, director and professor, Kent State’s Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising; Ken Burns, founder and CEO, TinyCircuits; Dana DeSantis, vice president of marketing, MOVABLE; and Hunter Morris, design manager, Kent Displays.
“I came into this weekend having no intention of placing in the top three or even making a product,” says Gillespie. “I was more focused on learning how to use the technology, and once I figured it out, the ideas started flowing. Winning feels amazing, as I came into this hackathon with basically a blank slate.”
Sponsored by Kent State's Blackstone LaunchPad, in partnership with the Fashion School’s TechStyleLAB and the student organization Hacksu, the event attracted teams from six universities that were challenged to create a wearable technology or an app that referenced a wearable context within a 24-hour time span. Participants from varying majors and disciplines collaborated with one another in building prototypes and learning new technologies.
“This year’s Innov8athon event was particularly challenging for participants as we provided hardware and supplies that many of them had never used before,” says Zach Mikrut, marketing manager of Blackstone LaunchPad at Kent State. “Instead of playing it safe, the participants thrived on the challenge, and with the assistance of Margarita Benitez, Kent State Fashion School technologist, and Kevin Wolfgang, manager of the TechStyleLab, developed a wide range of wearable products.”
Second place went to the GLOW team, made up of Kent State fashion design students Madison Kalson and Dara Sander, and Bowling Green University student Lindsay Pizzurro, who created a shirt that glows in the dark for bicyclists.
The Impluvian Jacket that allows for vents to open when one perspires took third place and was created by Kent State architecture student Jake Johnson.
“As a means to promote a broader and deeper understanding of our TechStyleLAB in the Fashion School, we were very pleased to partner with the Blackstone LaunchPad to host what turned out to be a fantastic fashion hackathon event,” says Campbell. “Tying entrepreneurial thinking to technology implementation in the context of wearable inevitably sparks engaging conversations about how we, as humans, experience the world. Supporting students to explore these questions, to brainstorm and propose innovative solutions is what the Fashion School is all about!”
Kent State University’s Blackstone LaunchPad promotes entrepreneurship as a viable career path. Through mentoring, workshops and events and connecting entrepreneurs to resources, Blackstone LaunchPad helps Kent State students, faculty, staff and alumni to create new startups or grow existing businesses in Northeast Ohio. For more information about Kent State's Blackstone LaunchPad, visit www.kent.edu/blackstonelaunchpad.