Featured Youth, Family, & Communities Impacts

Engineering fashion sparks interest in STEM

Fewer women pursue careers in science and engineering due to environmental and social

barriers, according to the American Association of University of Women.

At Kentucky 4-H camps, 497 youths from 18 counties experimented with new materials and used technology to engineer fashionable clothing and accessories. The participants, 75% female, identified insulating materials to reduce heat loss in footwear, clothing and accessories. To compare the insulating performance of different fabrics, yarns and fibers, they wrapped classmates in cloth and calculated the difference in body temperature after five minutes of activity. They created a viscoelastic polymer from borax and glue and tested its durability against shear stress. They also incorporated electronics into fashion designs by creating parallel circuits using conductive thread and LEDs.

In an activity that required coordination and teamwork, the campers tested the limits of elasticity and strength of spandex fibers. They created patterns from measurements to construct and sew fashion accessories and participated in engineering design challenges.

As a result of the camps, 89% of the participants expressed a desire to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and 71% plan to pursue a career in a

STEM-related field.