A critical issue in the textile industry is how to attract and inspire the next generation. North Carolina State University in Raleigh may have an answer: develop student/industry partnerships that solve real-life open-ended problems. During a presentation at EXPO, co-directors Jesse S. Jur and Russell E. Gorga, from the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, said NCSU’s Textile Engineering/Technology Capstone Program is currently growing in popularity. According to Jur, the program had 45 students in 2013 and this year it has 95 students.
The students choose from projects submitted by industry mentors such as the U.S. Army, Under Armour Inc., Gildan Activewear Inc. and many others. The students spend an academic year working in small teams with industry sponsors who guide them through a real-life project lifecycle. “The students learn the gamut of both hard and soft skills,” says Gorga. “Supply chain, real world stressors, time, budget and resource constraints, professionalism, leadership skills, teamwork challenges and more.”
More than 100 projects have been completed since 2013 with more than $725,000 in funding. Projects have included a Realistic Canine Bite Sleeve and Elephant Feedback Collar for Animal-Human Conflict Resolution, both sponsored by the U.S. Army, and an exploration of nonwovens for performance gear sponsored by Under Armour Inc.
“The most popular projects have to do with wearable tech, outdoor equipment and outdoor retailers,” says Jur. “The students are interested in materials developer roles in industry and want to examine questions having to do with how to determine the right materials, coatings and they’re excited by really cool high-tech fabrics.”
And it’s not just the students who are excited by the projects, says Gorga. “The sponsors feel a sense of ownership, too. They are really invested in the students who work with them.” Gorga says that after students graduate, many of them get hired by the companies who sponsor them. “The program helps them learn both technical and soft skills which helps them be successful on day one. They’re not looking around wondering who does what. They already know.”