PhilaU students in textile design, textile material technology and industrial design programs are collaborating this semester with textile students at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to develop innovative new textiles that are sustainable, smart or digitally enhanced.
The seven student teams include 12 undergraduate and graduate students from PhilaU and seven undergraduate textile students from Heriot-Watt, who are based in Galashiels, Scotland. The international collaboration is part of an interdisciplinary materials innovation course taught by Marcia Weiss, director of the textile design program.
“There is a long-standing relationship between PhilaU and Heriot-Watt University, and our textile design students regularly study at each other’s university,” Weiss said. “This is the first time that we are teaching a collaborative course, and we hope to build on the synergies that exist between our programs. We see this as a great opportunity for our students to explore the design process on a global scale and look forward to exciting, innovative results.”
Students on both sides of the Atlantic presented their initial product plans Jan. 29 via Adobe Connect videoconferencing tools, which allowed students to interact almost face-to-face with their partners for the first time.
The presentations took place in the DEC Center, PhilaU’s flagship building designed to help bridge barriers between majors. Fittingly, for this project students across multiple disciplines are collaborating to consider the important elements of their products, such as sustainability, technology, marketing, functionality and fashion.
“This project isn’t about learning new technology, it’s about learning to collaborate and communicate,” said Marnie Collins, textile professor at Heriot-Watt. The students appeared to overcome the challenges of collaborating across time zones and cultures, in some cases even using those differences for inspiration.
One group, for instance, proposed combining innovative textile designs with fiber optics and LED lighting to create luminescent wall hangings that could be used to combat depression caused by seasonal affective disorder, a kind of depression that can be sparked by lack of sunlight. This could be useful, for instance, in certain parts of Scotland, where during the winter months residents may only experience a few hours of sunlight a day.
Another group presented plans to develop disposable athletic wear made from super-absorbent polymers that absorb water and, through an endothermic reaction, create a therapeutic cooling effect similar to that of an ice bath.
The PhilaU and Scottish students will continue their work until spring break, March 9-16, when PhilaU students and Weiss will travel to Scotland to work in person with their teammates across the pond. Final project presentations will take place the last week of March.