Professor Kaye Crippen of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff addressed the importance of education in textile/material sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A professor in UAPB’s Department of Merchandising, Textiles and Design, Crippen recently spoke at the 2017 North American Materials Education Symposium at MIT at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Crippen presented a paper that focused on teaching textile sciences to diverse student populations, including students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority service institutions. She and Patricia M. Mulready, a former professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and the paper’s co-author, shared the ways they have worked to increase university recruitment and community interest in the fields of textile and material sciences through hands-on learning activities.

“Industry requires diversity, and it is economically beneficial when people with different points of view collaborate,” Crippen said. “As workforce diversity increases in the textile and fashion industries, it is imperative that universities and employers reach out to young adults from all backgrounds to fill new jobs.”

At the symposium, Crippen mentioned UAPB’s community outreach efforts in introducing local youth to concepts of textile sciences and apparel design through collaboration with the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. At ASC events, MTD faculty members and students have given demonstrations on the use of thermoplastic materials in costume design, as well as the incorporation of light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures in fashion apparel. They have also conducted hands-on workshops on topics such as fiber carding, wool spinning, garment draping and fiber identification.

It is important to involve students in activities such as creating new product concepts, she said. When they feel responsible for coming up with a product or solution and are able to use their imagination, students are engaged in a deeper and more meaningful way than they might be during a traditional lecture, she said.

“The field of textiles sciences is rapidly modernizing and career opportunities in the industry are opening up,” she said. “Recent innovations in the textile industry include the use of textile-based composite material in aerospace technology and prosthetic limbs, the use of 3-D printers in the creation of fashion apparel and the development of ‘smart textiles’ and ‘smart apparel.’ These types of products include embedded digital components or use nanotechnology to make flexible circuitry for use in knitted garments.”

Because innovations in textile sciences drive innovations in fashion apparel, the MTD program currently trains students in the field of textile product design, Crippen said.

“When they enter the workforce, UAPB graduates will be well-equipped to take advantage of employment opportunities in the region,” she said. “The local presence of potential employers will get our students excited about careers in textiles.”

— Will Hehemann is an Extension specialist - communications with the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences at UAPB.