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Summer Textile Exploration Program

STEP 2024 applications will open January 1.

The Wilson College of Textiles Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) consists of five one-week sessions for rising high school seniors interested in learning about the textile industry, fashion, engineering, polymer science and business marketing. Up to 35 students per week are chosen based on their academic success, interest in NC State Wilson College of Textiles, and extracurricular activities.

Students participate in sessions learning about the five degree programs offered in the Wilson College of Textiles, applying to NC State University, Centennial Scholarships, future internship and job opportunities, and learning about the industry from partners and alumni. Each student has the opportunity to rank their top project interest and will spend parts of the day working on project pertaining to one of the following that has been completed in the past. Please note that the projects listed are subject to change each week.

I made so many new friends. STEP allows you to learn what the textile industry really entails.


Brand Management, 2022

A student works on a screenprinted t-shirt while another student looks on.

2024 Program Dates

  • STEP Week 1: June 9-14
  • STEP Week 2: June 16-21
  • STEP Week 3: June 23-28
  • STEP Week 4: July 7-12
  • Textile Pioneer Week: July 14-19

Project Groups

Apparel Design

A student working at a sewing machine.

Students learn about the design process to create a mood board and a 3D digital rendering of their design using CLO. They will then create a garment themed around upcycling, zero-waste or kimonos. Finally, students model their designs on the runway during Friday presentations.

Textile Engineering

A student watching an experiment with a fire in a fume hood.

Biomedical Textiles: Students have the opportunity to collect bacteria samples from various surfaces, grow them and apply them to different fabrics to test an antimicrobial finish’s ability to reduce bacteria on different textile surfaces. The information learned can have an impact on textile products used in everyday life as well as hospitals, military personnel and much more.

Protective Textiles: Students in this group learn about those textiles created to keep us safe. The participants will have the opportunity to perform experiments on a variety of fabric to test their fire and water resistance and visit a local fire department to learn why it’s important. The participants also perform trials on a variety of face mask types to asses their efficacy.

Smart Textiles: Students explore the properties of various fibers and textile production methods. They are then tasked with creating a smart textile (a textile that responds to external stimuli). Students create a woven textile design with light-up capabilities. They also construct a McKibben Actuator model, a manmade muscle used in artificial limbs.

Business Management

A student writing notes near a game.

Marketing: Students work in groups to develop a marketing plan and analysis for an apparel company or brand that is not a part of the current target market. Students then develop a new sub-brand or brand in order to successfully target that market.

Business Simulation: In teams, students participate in a business simulation that takes them through the start-up and growth of a textile manufacturing business, addressing the relevant decisions for business management. Students learn business strategies, financial planning, business sustainability, and they learn the differences between manufacturing and retail.

Textile Design

A student looking through a stack of digitally printed fabric samples.

Students create their own motifs using hand and digital methods, and then develop innovative repeat patterns for textiles. Emphasis has been placed on students learning CAD design skills, color theory and design principles for printed textile design. In the end, students had the opportunity to have their design digitally printed on cotton fabric, and many have expressed plans to use their design(s) to create things such as tote bags, pencil pouches, pillows, and much more.

Polymer Chemistry

Two students working on creating a pink fiber

Students identify what a polymer is, how synthetic polymers are made, and where we find polymers in our everyday lives. They explore the polymerization model and create their own model of the molecular structure of polyethylene. Lastly, they learn the history and use of nylon and have the opportunity to make and dye their own nylon rope.

Application Information

Online Application: The 2024 STEP application will open on January 1, 2024. The application requires you to upload your unofficial transcript as one complete document. Pictures of your transcript and progress reports will not be accepted. STEP admissions align with NC State admissions. See below for additional factors that the Wilson College looks for.

Program Cost: The program cost covers lodging, transportation, materials, lunches and dinners during the camp. Partial and full scholarships are available on a need basis.

Questions: Please email

Frequently Asked Questions

The cost of the program covers lodging, transportation, materials, lunches and dinners during the camp. Please note: NC State is a cashless university, so students will need to bring a debit or credit card if they are interested in getting ice cream, snacks, coffee or items from the NC State bookstore.

All applications will be reviewed following the April 15 deadline and applicants will be notified of their status at the beginning of May by the email address on their application.

Yes, you must be a current high school junior to be eligible for STEP.

Our rule of thumb is that STEP attendees must be planning to apply to a four year university in the fall.

We are looking for students who are on-track (should they continue their current level of academic achievement) to be strong candidates for admission to NC State the following year. We look at grades, course selection, extra-curricular activities, leadership roles, unique life experiences, writing abilities, and like to see that the application answers are well thought out and thorough. Please note that a STEP admission decision is not a direct indicator of a future NC State admission decision.

Week 5 is the Summer Textile Exploration Pioneer Program (STEPP) which was instituted to support students from non-metropolitan areas of North Carolina. The option to choose this week will not populate for you unless you are from one of these areas.

We accept homeschool, narrative transcripts and other transcripts with nontraditional means of course evaluation. We do ask that your transcript is comprehensive, including your classes and evaluations (grades) through the current enrollment term. Your transcript should also confirm your standing as a high school junior (rising senior). We do not accept screenshots from PowerSchool or the equivalent. We also do not accept progress reports.

Summer Textile Exploration Pioneer Program (STEPP)

The Wilson College of Textiles has added a fifth week (July 16-21) of its Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) with a focus for students from non-metropolitan North Carolina areas. The addition of the pioneer program is in alignment with NC State’s land-grant mission to diversify our student body while maintaining the excellence to continue providing educational innovation. The additional week of STEP will meet the needs of students from non-metropolitan North Carolina areas who have an interest in the textile industry, through the following ways:

  • Personalized support to maximize success in the college and scholarship application process
  • Focus on writing college and scholarship application essays
  • Additional opportunities for parent/guardian engagement
  • Overview of financial literacy

To qualify for participation in STEPP (July 16-21), a student must be from a non-metropolitan county in North Carolina. The UNC System Strategic Plan defines this as students coming from a Tier 1 or Tier 2 county as defined by the NC State Department of Commerce. At this time, the university is utilizing the 2016 Tier designations map. To see if you qualify, see the map below:

2016 North Carolina County Tier Designations

STEP attendees will live in one of the suite-style residence halls on main campus. Roommates are randomly assigned, unless we receive a specific roommate request, in which case we will do our best to accommodate the request. To check out NC State’s suite-style residence halls, please visit the University Housing website.