This article was originally published in the July 2009 issue of AATCC News.
Path to Innovation
The 2009 winners of AATCC's fourth annual Materials Design Competition for students submitted entries in the Industrial/Technical and Sports Materials category. They won cash awards of US$1,000 for first place and US$500 for second place, plus complimentary student registrations for the AATCC International Conference in Atlanta, Ga., USA, May 18-20, 2010.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist—or a textile engineer—to come up with a winning idea! Creative students from all disciplines are invited to participate.
The Winning Teams!
My major was Textile and Apparel Management with a concentration in Fashion Development and Product Management. I've heard about the competition from professors since I transferred into the [NCSU] College of Textiles as a sophomore. We began working on Temp-a-Tote [during the] fall semester of 2008 in our Senior Project class. We worked so hard on this project and are very proud of the way it turned out. This competition was a way to show off our hard work and pride about our product and each other.
My major was Textile and Apparel Management with a concentration in Brand Management and Marketing. I heard about the competition through Dr. Suh, who is our senior project course professor. It interested me, because I thought that we had a great product with potential to win.
I have a BS in Textile Technology, with concentrations in Textile Design and Medical Textile Product Design & Development. Professors Nancy Powell and Moon Suh told us about the competition. [Then] we read through the brochure and became enthusiastic about submitting our product design/proposal.
I'm working full time in the Textile Laboratory at LaamScience in Raleigh. I started there as an intern in May 2008 and came on full time as a contractor in December 2008. [My main focus is on the] fabric treatment and color analysis on antimicrobial fabric, [and occasionally] I perform chemical assays on them as well.
I major in Fashion and Textile Management, with a Brand Management and Marketing concentration. It greatly interested me to submit to AATCC because I knew we worked very hard all semester on this project and it was well supported by Professor Suh along with our advisor Professor Nancy Powell.
Super-hydrophobic and Anti-microbial
I am a PhD student in Fiber and Polymer Science at the NCSU College of Textiles.
What Was the Inspiration for Your Product Design?
Ashley Amick: Our product focuses on the use of phase change materials (PCM). PCMs fit into the category of smart textiles, which was a category of this year's Materials Design Competition. Well, I have to admit, Temp-a-Tote was definitely not discovered on the first attempt. We were in the "automobile" group in our Senior Project class. We had to create a project concerning textiles that would be used on or with an automobile. After lots of constructive criticism from our class professor, Dr. Moon Suh, along with direction and guidance from our advisor, Professor Nancy Powell, we stumbled across the idea of Temp-a-Tote and the rest is history!
Ivy Bunn: We actually thought that a PCM product was a great direction to go in. Originally, we were going to make a PCM car seat so it would help assist with liquid leaks and a baby's comfort level in the car; however, upon looking up patents we found that a product like this had already been patented. We then went in the electronic bag with PCM direction, which we found to be a much better idea. Once we started working on this product proposal, we couldn't stop. There is a definite need for a product like this in the market; however, there are no products out there like the Temp-a-Tote, that will protect your electronics against extreme temperatures!
Jinmei Du: How to design superhydrophobic and anti-microbial fabric.
Elizabeth Hathaway: We had already begun working on this product design, so when we found out about the competition, we were excited to see a category open to us. We were working on an automotive product design. We wanted to use PCM, and somehow when we were talking, we all had stories where we had left our cell phone or iPod in our cars and came back to find it damaged or broken from the heat or cold. So we thought What if we used phase change material to protect the electronics from temperature damage? A few months later we had the Temp-A-Tote design.
How Were Responsibilities Divided?
Elizabeth Hathaway: We all had some form of textile background but this was really new for all of us in one way or another. As group leader, I assigned work to each member according to their experiences within the various aspects of the product design; or if they had a strong passion for one area over another, I wanted them to work in that area. We had a goal for every week; the next week we’d come together and discuss what we had been working on, the results of problems we encountered, the new things we discovered, and then set new goals for the next week. Some members worked on the PCM development, some on the marketing/branding segments, though we all contributed to every part in some way. Nancy Powell was our advisor and played a crucial role as facilitator, continually presenting new questions and challenging us to think creatively.
Ashley Amick: The members of our group were very diverse in major concentrations. We tried to give each group member a section to develop that correlated with their study. Professor Powell, our advisor, was the guidance in our group. She kept us motivated and in line. When we began to veer off course she would let us know and line us back up. We met once a week to discuss the duties and responsibilities of each team member for the week. I also have to give credit to our team leader, Elizabeth Hathaway. She was awesome at delegating tasks and putting everything together.
Ivy Bunn: We all helped in the area we were best at. Since I have a marketing concentration in my major, I worked on the marketing part of the project. I also found our PCM contact, which was Microtek Laboratories, and researched a lot about PCM. The other group members worked on areas of the project that met their strengths as well. Our advisor, Professor Powell, was great! She was extremely insightful, and always available to help out.
Amanda Shearin: Elizabeth, the leader, set timelines of goals that we scheduled to meet during each meeting to keep us focused and on track, as well as working whole-heartedly on the specialty fabric (phase-change material), and putting the information together in paper format. Ivy concentrated on the demographics from researching the target market, and everything from branding to advertising. Ashley researched geographics, identifying where the product would benefit the most people, and Amanda researched existing products in the marketplace as well as editing each section for the final submission. Our adviser guided us through asking tough questions that we needed to answer about our product and gave us first-hand knowledge due to familiarity with the automotive industry.
What Did You Learn? What Was the Most Difficult Part of the Competition?
Ashley Amick: Not only did I learn about PCMs, target marketing, producing a product, etc., I learned how to work in a group effectively. I've worked in many groups throughout college but this project was immense compared to any other. It took us a semester to get everything together and we were still down to the wire. If we would not have worked together effectively we would not have succeeded.
Elizabeth Hathaway: For me it was the unending pursuit of designing a “perfect product.” We started out with an idea, and the more research we did, the more research we needed to do! The more questions we answered, the more questions we had about how it would all come together. We saw so much possibility with the product that we had to “get it” somehow.
Amanda Shearin: A concept may be simple, but adding current research, future technology, and material to make an actual marketable product is extremely tedious and complex, but definitely worth doing after completion!
What advice would you give students entering next year's competition?
Jinmei Du: Have your own idea and ask help from your advisor.
Amanda Shearin: Your project will not be perfect and you must recognize and identify what further research is needed to clarify concerns.
Ivy Bunn: The best part of the competition was developing something new, that is actually a great idea, and could in fact one day be developed and sold. Also, winning is always a lot of fun!
There is always room for improvement. We could definitely research more thoroughly to improve on the specifics of the design of the product. I would tell students to work hard to create an innovative
idea and product that is functional and could in fact sell if ever mass produced.
Elizabeth Hathaway: Don’t stop at the first roadblock—to learn and design creatively, you have to know your limitations so you can go beyond them.