Written by Julie Watterson
On Oct. 17 and 18, Ben Cooper visited the Wilson College of Textiles for the Executive-in-Residence Program (EIR). The program provides a forum for students and faculty to interface with global industry and government executives with a goal of exposing them to global business strategies and current textile information and expertise. The EIR’s visit also includes discussions with faculty and students as well as a seminar.
William Harazin, teaching associate professor in the department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM), describes the benefits of the EIR. “There is engagement between the EIR and the College through student and EIR interaction, internships, full-time and part-time positions, extension services and donations to the North Carolina Textile Foundation,” said Harazin.
“I’ve always been curious about human performance and improving it using science. The textile industry has always played an integral role in that. Making textile products with intelligence and connectivity creates a whole new world of experiences for us all,” said Cooper.
Cooper gained his B.S. in Biomedical Physics from Northeastern University and a M.S. in Kinesiology and Exercise Science with a concentration in Biomechanics from Boise State University.
He was the lead footwear project engineer for the U.S. Army, and successfully led fast-paced multimillion dollar development efforts for the United States Department of Defense. Cooper also co-founded the “smart” infant monitoring startup, Sensible Baby, which gained international recognition for its innovative approach to disrupting the juvenile products space.
Cooper was a founding member of VF Corporation’s Global Innovation Center where he led product research and testing for Timberland, Vans and The North Face’s footwear innovation programs, and VF’s wearable tech exploratory group.
IoClothes was founded by Cooper to reduce the friction between the worlds of technology, apparel, footwear and textiles industries. “Smart textiles are becoming more feasible as electronic components can be smaller and require less power. The textile industry is ready from a tech standpoint,” said Cooper.
Over the years, Cooper has worked with NC State alumni and continues to admire their drive and motivation when it comes to problem solving. “I have previously worked with colleagues from NC State who have such a high caliber and innovative minds. My visit to the Wilson College of Textiles both met and exceeded expectations as everyone seemed forward thinking and possessed an appetite for creating industry solutions. NC State is in an excellent position to solve many textile-related problems,” said Cooper.
During the two-day visit he was able to guest speak in classes, tour the College, view labs, see the James B. Hunt Jr. Library and more. “I enjoyed visiting the Senior Design class. The undergraduate students had such interest in coming up with results in search of resolutions for well known sponsors with complex project descriptions. I enjoy seeing a program where the students are working one-on-one with a brand while working on user focused problems,” said Cooper.
Cooper had the opportunity to meet with the TATM Student Advisory Board (SAB) where president, Sabrina Baker, helped lead discussion. “During the Executive-in-Residence visit, the TATM SAB had the wonderful privilege to interact with Ben Cooper and learn about the future of technology. Mr. Cooper gave great advice about how to begin a career by discussing his previous experiences,” said Baker.
Cooper was truly a special guest who provided valuable insight for many individuals. “Ben was a great communicator of ideas on the textile industry and technology,” explained, Harazin.
Cooper hopes to grow his relationship with the University. “I look forward to finding opportunities to collaborate with the Wilson College of Textiles in the future, whether it be supporting student groups, guest lecturing, etc. I’m open to most any capacity. I want to maintain a connection with the Textiles faculty, students, and facilities at NC State,” he said.