URI Students Up to the Challenge at E-Textiles Hackathon
By Neil Nachbar
Two University of Rhode Island students captured first and second place in the E-Textiles Hackathon Design Challenge at the IFAI (Industrial Fabrics Association International) Expo, held Sept. 26-29, in New Orleans, LA.
Joshua Gyllinsky, who is completing his master’s degree in Computer Science and Statistics and is planning on entering the Ph.D. program in the Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering (ECBE) Department, was on the first place team. Mohammadreza Abtahi, who is pursuing his doctorate in the ECBE Department, was on the team that finished second.
The competitors were tasked with designing new and innovative products using e-textiles that had commercial value. They could only use materials found in the E-Textiles Workshop at the IFAI Expo.
Gyllinsky’s three-person team produced a smart e-textile-based, two-player game intended to help autistic children socialize and communicate.
“The toy had flexible LED fiber lights, heated e-textile thread, and other new, pre-production e-textile products which were made available to participants,” described Gyllinsky. “It took the entirety of Wednesday and Thursday to develop. It will take us longer to create version 2.0, however.”
Abtahi and his two teammates developed a product to be worn by adults riding motorcycles.
“We developed a smart jacket for bikers, which would provide an interaction between the biker and the drivers on the street,” explained Abtahi, who is originally from Iran. “We used microcontrollers and different kinds of sensors to turn on LEDs as left or right turn indicators, a stop sign and a flashing signal when it gets dark. All the sensors and LEDs were sewn to the fabric by conductive threads instead of wires, and the two-layer design of the jacket would cover all the materials, making it look like a regular jacket, but actually a smart one.”
The competitors had from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on the Wednesday and Thursday of the expo to work on their projects, giving them 12 hours to develop an idea, design and build their product, and complete a working prototype.
Gyllinsky’s team shared a cash prize of $1,500, sponsored by IFAI’s Advanced Textiles division. Abtahi and his teammates split $500 for second place.
The other two competitors on Gyllinsky’s team were Tracey Weisman, who is a researcher at KNITit, a 3D knitting company based in Grand Rapids, MI; and Aisha Hakam, a high school student and aspiring mechanical and textile engineer.
Abtahi’s team included Huipu Gao, who is a graduate student in Polymer, Fiber and Textile Science at the University of Georgia; and Alexis Troxell, Executive Knit Wit at KNITit.
Gyllinsky and Abtahi have had ample experience with hackathons. In the past two years, Gyllinsky competed in seven other competitions, finishing first or second in most of them.
This was Abtahi’s first time as a hackathon participant, but he has helped organize hackathons in Rhode Island since 2015. His experience in the Wearable Biosensing Lab, run by ECBE Assistant Professor Kunal Mankodiya, also came in handy.
“I have learned invaluable lessons in the Wearable Biosensing Lab,” said Abtahi. “I’ve been able to apply my knowledge of electrical engineering to fabrics and textiles. In a hackathon, you need to act fast and be confident that what you’re making will work correctly. My experience in the lab has instilled that confidence.”
Mankodiya, who was one of two advisors at the hackathon, was pleased with how the URI students performed.
“Josh and Mohammadreza have recently made fabulous progress with smart textiles,” said Mankodiya. “They have a great enthusiasm for collaboration and innovation. I am very glad that they showed their unique capabilities and brought our university a new recognition in smart textiles at a national-level competition. I truly believe that our students nurture big ideas and have the courage to pursue them.”
While the contest at the IFAI Expo was rewarding, Gyllinsky and Abtahi also enjoyed the rest of the activities.
“Between the workshops, lectures and advice from mentors, the knowledge was invaluable,” said Gyllinsky.
“All of the presentations, exhibitors, organizers and the advisors of the hackathon were extremely helpful,” echoed Abtahi. “I learned a lot at this event.”
Read related article on Advanced Textiles Source.