Kent State hosts annual Fashion/Tech Hackathon

Linda Öhrn-McDaniel, fashion design and merchandising professor and faculty director of the TechStyleLAB, speaks at the opening presentation of the Fashion/Tech Hackathon on Jan. 24, 2020. TechStyleLab is a digital textile-making facility. 

Dylan Bowers Beat Reporter

Kent State hosted its annual Fashion/Tech Hackathon Friday through Sunday at Rockwell Hall. Students from the United States and Canada learned new skills and created game-changing technology to help mold the future of fashion.

Linda Öhrn-McDaniel, a professor and TechStyleLAB faculty director, praised this year’s Hackathon in comparison to prior Hackathons.

“I think it was a huge success. We had a great turnout; we had more students this year than previous years,” Öhrn-McDaniel said.

This year’s Hackathon set record highs with 149 participants from 27 universities represented, according to Öhrn-McDaniel.

Öhrn-McDaniel alluded to teamwork being a key component to the team’s success.

“Collaborating across disciplines is really a great way to push things forward and to do things you couldn’t do in a major,” Öhrn-McDaniel said.

The Hackathon offered $5,000 in prizes and participants were able to interact with companies looking to hire.

Michael Groll, a student at Columbus College of Art and Design, viewed the Hackathon as a way for students to broaden their network.

“Meeting different people in the fashion department, you can build contacts and your portfolio,” Groll said.

The event awarded prizes for a variety of different concepts, all revolving around the Hackathon’s theme: social justice.

Students were given 36 hours, beginning Friday night at 8 p.m. and ending at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, to create a project in the form of a technology-enhanced garment or wearable responsive web application.

Most students would stress about having such a small time frame for creating something innovative from scratch, but this is unnecessary. 

“They were really lenient with us during the 36 hours,” said McKenzie Harmon, a senior fashion design major at Kent State.

Kent State provided participants free access to the TechStyleLAB, the Fashion School’s digital textile fabrication space, along with a plethora of electronic and textile materials to use.

“I thought it was really cool; they have a lot of stuff that we don’t have at our program,” Groll said of to the TechStyleLAB.

The TechStyleLAB provided students with presets to save them time as they made their ideas a reality.

A team of four fashion design majors from Toronto’s Ryerson University made an impression at the closing ceremony, receiving the Burton D. Morgan award for a concept that addresses a user/customer experience that encourages sustainable practice or social justice, and the LaunchNet + Enventys Mentorship Awards for most market/venture potential.

“We were very shocked,” said Kasie Lung. “This was our first Hackathon and we had no idea what to expect.” 

Teamwork and comradery helped the quartet develop ADAwear, a garment targeted to those requiring the use of a wheelchair.

“At some point, I think it stopped being about the Hackathon and more about us seeing a final product,” Safia Sheikh said.

Other prize winners included Groll’s group CoziPak, Smart Filtration-Infused Knitwear Sweater Weather, Eco Sole, EXPEDITIONARY: PEAK TERRAINERS and BackTrac. 

Contact Dylan Bowers at [email protected]