Baytar and Kao win NSF Early Career Awards

Baytar and Kao win NSF Early Career Award

Two College of Human Ecology assistant professors have won National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Awards in support of their research, mentorship, and work to expand access to new technologies.

Fatma Baytar, in Fiber Science & Apparel Design, will use the award to create a novel computational tool to facilitate rapid decision-making in apparel product development. She will also design virtual reality training modules on 2D/3D digital technologies for the current and future workforce.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became very apparent that the apparel manufacturing industry must be digitalized in order to respond quickly to such abrupt changes,” Baytar said. “2D/3D digital technologies enable instant product iterations and quickly move garments from development into production, but digital competency in the current workforce is low. In education, there is a lack of knowledge about how to integrate 3D digital technologies into the curriculum, which has made it challenging to develop a tech-savvy future workforce.”

Baytar’s overarching aim is to help increase the adoption of 2D/3D digital technologies in apparel manufacturing through creating new tools and training methods. She said building up both educational capacity and workforce capability in digital technologies would boost U.S. manufacturing and pave the way for new apparel production jobs.

Cindy (Hsin-Liu) Kao, in Design + Environmental Analysis, will use the award to continue her work on collaborative, democratized, and culturally-inspired on-skin interfaces, such as her “smart” tattoos and bandages. The project will produce toolkits for crafting on-skin interfaces using a combination of traditional craft techniques and electronic technologies, enabling anyone to design their own on-skin interface.

In addition to funding two PhD students, part of the grant will go toward outreach with local rural youth – girls in particular – using the on-skin interface toolkits to engage the next generation of designers.

The grant will also fund a yearly artist residency in Kao’s Hybrid Body Lab, open to experts in any body design field, including tattoo, make-up, and textile artists.

“We want to have a more diverse perspective about how these interfaces could be designed,” Kao said. “We want to build these devices, which are so tied to the human experience, in a way that is more inclusive, that blends different disciplines, and gives people with expertise in designing for the body a voice.”

Both grants commit to funding Baytar and Kao’s research for the next five years with around $500,000 in funding each.

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