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Kinkead Crotts ’24: Using Her Degree to Keep Firefighters Safe

Kinkead Crotts in a graduation cap and gown on a covered brick walkway

If you spend a long enough time looking at the packaging for pretty much any product, from shampoos to batteries to furniture, you’ll probably notice a little circle with “UL” inside of it. It basically serves as a stamp of approval from UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a company that tests and inspects most of the products we use every day to make sure they’re safe and work as advertised. 

In other words, they do pretty important work. 

And after she graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Textile Engineering this weekend, Kinkead Crotts will head to Research Triangle Park to join them in that work. As a personal protective equipment engineer, she’ll be part of the team making sure that firefighter gear is up to national safety standards.

Crotts with her fellow UL interns.

“I interned there last summer, and it was a very welcoming community. Each of the little teams are very tight knit even though it’s a huge company. It really felt like anytime I had a question, I could go to anyone there and they were all very willing to help,” she says. “I also had the ability to be hands-on and actually touch some of the gear and do some of the testing, which was really cool.” 

Earning a degree from NC State represents more than being ready to start her career. It also means following in her father’s footsteps and becoming the newest member of the family to graduate from NC State.

Kinkead and her dad before an NC State football game.

What has been your most impactful experience? 

Using my engineering enhancement funds to go to the Textile Exchange Conference in London last year. I was able to use my engineering enhancement fee to pay for it, so that’s where it really paid off to be in a joint degree with the College of Engineering. 

It was an incredible experience to go and learn more about sustainability in textiles. I learned a lot about what’s happening in terms of sustainability and regenerative textiles, and I also got to hear from companies and see what they’re doing to make a difference. Lululemon’s footwear design and sustainability team was there so it was amazing to hear from them. 

What was your Senior Design project and how did it impact you? 

My team worked with HanesBrands and they tasked us with creating a sock that is physically cool to the touch that can help regulate the temperature of a person’s foot. 

I think the main thing that it’s helped with is learning how that whole production line with product development works, how long  each step takes and how to talk with suppliers. It really has taught me how to talk to professionals and work with people around you.

Kinkead Crotts with her Senior Design teammates.

Who has been the most influential person on campus for you?

Dr. Joines and Dr. Mills. Dr. Joines is great at learning what each of his students need and tailoring to each student. And then Dr. Mills has been such a great role model for me as a woman in STEM during Senior Design and our other textile engineering coursework. She’s so knowledgeable and so skilled, so it’s been amazing to be able to learn from her.

What advice would you give your first-year self? 

Not to take everything so seriously. The exams are scary and they are hard, but it’s not the end of the world. You’ll adapt and you’ll graduate!