The art of STEM

STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—is quite the buzz term lately both in education and the increasingly popular makers movement. A friend of mine in the fashion department at Stephens College is quick to remind me that it should really be STEAM—science, technology, engineering, ART, and math.

It’s a good point. All to often, we tend to think of makers as men using traditional wood or metalworking tools with some 3D printing and Arduino thrown in. We forget that a healthy dose of the artistic may just be the element that can bring a project together and make it marketable. Adding what was once considered the womanly arts—textiles, dressmaking, and fashion—reminds us that talent rests in a much broader range of individuals. In her mind, the perfect makers space would have a row of sewing machines next to the 3D printers.

This was brought home this weekend at the Kent State Fashion/Tech Hackathon, a 36-hour creation marathon focusing on the next generation of wearables (they also sported one of the more clever hashtags I’ve seen: #WeAreAble.) This is about way more than a watch that tracks your steps; it’s about embedding the technology in a garment. Once that becomes an option, the possibilities for input and output are endless.

Over a 100 students attended the hackathon this weekend, including two Stephens students, Meredith Morrow and Brittany Grayson. As fashion students, they had no idea how hackathons worked and ended up seeking out some IT advice to give them an idea of what to expect.

The final projects were nothing short of exciting. Bluetooth equipped athletic apparel with sensors to help bring fitness tracking to the next level. 3D printed wearable rings that offer an added element of security. A GPS enabled backpack that uses Google maps and haptic feedback to give the user directions. Wearable translation garments.

Meredith and Brittany, along with an impromptu team member from Kent State, ended up developing a garment embedded with LED lights that dances along to music  A fantastic idea that’s imminently marketable to both the general public and to performers. And even though they were new to hackathons, they certainly knew their stuff when it came to fashion— Meredith Morrow, Brittany Grayson and Aanchal Bakshi’s Geolectrics concept won third place.