National center awards grant to support e-textiles workshop for female students

Jackets with embedded solar panels, athletic shirts with built in heart-rate monitors and bandages that stop bleeding all take advantage of electronic textiles.

These innovative materials — which include fabrics, yarns and threads — incorporate conductive fibers and sensors directly into the textile, with potential applications ranging from helping firefighters navigate smoky buildings to helping stroke survivors recover function.

Thanks to funding from the National Center for Women and Information Technology Academic Alliance (NCWIT), in partnership with Symantec, undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Delaware will have the opportunity to participate in an e-textiles workshop this fall that aims to introduce computer science and engineering concepts in a practical and fun way.

The workshop will be planned and hosted by CISters, a registered student organization at UD.

“Participants will have the opportunity to learn and build electronic fabric products and will have direct interactions with graduate students in the fields of computer science, electrical engineering and bioinformatics,” says doctoral student Irene Manotas.

“During the workshop, they’ll learn how electronics and programming can be combined to create interesting and useful e-textiles, such as a blinking bike patch, a light-up stuffed toy that sings and a musical touch-sensitive light-up hoodie. By the end of the workshop, students will have built a working product of fabrics with embedded electronics.”

According to NCWIT, only 14 percent of computer science bachelor degree recipients in 2013 were women.

Lori Pollock, professor of computer and information sciences at UD, says the ultimate goal of the workshop is to introduce female students to computer science and engineering in an engaging and pragmatic way, so that they become more interested in taking their first computer science course, integrating computer sciences courses into their college plan, or continuing in the computer science or computer engineering major.

About the award

CISters will have the support of the Bioinformatics Student Association (BiSA), and the IEEE-W organization at UD for promoting computer science and electronics during the workshop.

BiSA brings together students studying or interested in the field of bioinformatics and facilitates the exchange of ideas, information and knowledge through newly formed collaborations with fellow UD students. The IEEE-W group supports women in engineering fields and provides networking professional opportunities and mentoring.

CISters was founded in 2006 in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences to provide a supportive community for all women in technology-driven fields by initiating relevant programs such as mentoring and early/pre-major outreach and informative seminars about career and research opportunities.

This is the third time that CISters has been selected to receive support through the Student Seed Fund to support its outreach initiatives.

To date, the NCWIT Student Seed Fund has provided outreach, mentoring, peer support, training and professional development opportunities to more than 3,700 elementary middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate students.

Workshop registration and information will be provided early in September on the CISters website.

Article by Diane Kukich

News, Students CISters in technology