Photo: Shahida Afrin and her team took top honors in the 2021 Fashion Tech Hackathon for designing and marketing an innovative connected glove.

By Debbie Willmschen

Shahida Afrin, a first-year doctoral student pursuing her Textile Technology Management degree at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles, took top honors with teammates from Canada in the eighth annual Fashion Tech Hackathon at Kent State University. She and fellow doctoral students — Nicholas Rocha (Queen’s University, Kingston, ON) and Esse Ogbaran (Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON) — developed an award-winning product design, website and presentation for a connected glove as part of the 36-hour, time-limited competition held January 29-31.

Their teamwork and project netted three Fashion Tech Hackathon 2021 awards highlighted by the Connection Community Challenge award ($1,500) for demonstrating a deeper, more meaningful sense of connected community through fashion and technology as well as team composition, evidenced by the multidisciplinary backgrounds of Afrin ( textiles), Rocha (UNIX design) and Ogbaran (computer science engineering). 

In addition, the team garnered the CLO Best Use of Virtual Fashion award (free software license for team members) and the Best Domain award.

The Fashion Tech Hackathon brings together university students from different majors, backgrounds and locations to expand their skills and creativity through project design  combining fashion and technology. With the support of mentors spanning universities, industries and disciplines, the event fosters networking, collaboration and innovation. 

In keeping with this year’s theme, “Connected,” the event was a fully online, virtual hackathon in compliance with COVID-19 safety standards and procedures. Afrin’s team designed a connected glove — Calescent by amberx — that allows the wearer to communicate with others, regulate hand temperature and make contactless payments. The team presented amberx as a technical accessories brand that combines fashion and technology, while marketing Calescent, (which means “increasing in heat”) as the “minimalist glove for the urban adventurer.” Team members also created a website and app feature as part of their submission.

“After networking and initially forming our team on Friday night, we had to come up with an idea quickly,” said Afrin. “We knew that we wanted to solve an existing problem while also using cutting-edge technology, such as 3D apparel simulation technology for virtual prototyping, because we couldn’t make a physical product with the virtual event this year.” 

The team first determined the scope of the project, and then each member of the team was responsible for different aspects of the project’s submission, drawing from their own particular strengths and skill sets. Afrin worked on the product’s overall design and the 3D simulation of the glove; Rocha was the lead UI/UX (user interface and experience) programmer who designed the website app and presentation and Ogbaran assisted with product research. 

“Although working virtually with teammates was a bit tricky, we each brought an advantage to the team and divided our work,” said Afrin. 

According to Afrin, working with the CLO software to create the 3D simulation was the most challenging part of the experience for her and involved a significant learning curve. “I never made gloves using CLO,” said Afrin. “And it took me almost the entire day to render a glove successfully in the 3D software because it was so complicated.”

Afrin, whose research centers on 3D apparel simulation technology, credits her mentor for her success — Professor Emeritus Cynthia Istook in the Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management department.  

I appreciate the opportunities that Dr. Istook has provided me,” said Afrin. “I learned a lot from my hackathon experience and was glad to be a part of a professional event that was focused on this area of my research interest. I am so thankful to Dr. Istook. She is a great educator and supervisor.”