Rodgers: Textiles are the “T” in STEM

Published On: November 11, 2020

How do you create a channel from research to application? How do you create a pathway toward understanding complex human problems across supply chains and market sectors?

STEM—a curriculum based on teaching science, technology, engineering and math—has branched out from basic chemistry and biology and physics classes, into collaborative efforts, including textiles, according to Stephanie Rodgers, director of product research and development with Apex Mills of Inwood, N.Y.

Rodgers connected the explosive growth in the wearables sector with women who have embraced the technology and the opportunities it has created. While STEM is a major curriculum in schools around the world, it has been dominated by men. Rodgers lifted up numerous women—entrepreneurs, neuroscientists, PhDs, artists and women with textile backgrounds—who are advancing smart textile technology and its practical applications.

Industry-academic connections are helping to bridge the gap between research and the marketplace so that new technology doesn’t fall into the “valley of death”—waiting for an industry partner while funding runs out, she said.

“If there isn’t an industry person out there scoping and analyzing and pursuing these new ideas and what they could be, then that idea stays dead, unfortunately,” Rodgers said. “And in textiles, it’s happened time and time again.”

Organizations such as the Pennsylvania Fabric Discovery Center “allow technologies that aren’t quite ready for primetime to find a way to get ready for primetime and to work out the kinks and the bugs outside of the production pressures of textile manufacturing, processing and delivery,” she said.

“How you would scale that up? There are ways to imagine it now,” she added. “And all you need to do is ask.”

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