Who knew that fashion and engineering could be combined? Introducing Functional Design. It’s a “design process that begins with empathy,” says University of Delaware researcher Martha Hall, who has training in both fashion design and engineering. Hall directs a research lab in which undergraduates use technology to design medical devices with a fashionable twist – things that make life easier for people who have physical disabilities.
Philadelphia 76ers basketball player Joel Embiid fractured a bone under his eye, and used a plastic face mask during the 2017-18 season. This is an example of the “wearable technology” that UD undergraduates create as they blend fashion with function.
Applications of this emerging discipline could include physical therapy and occupational therapy patients as well as children on the autism spectrum. Because of its location, embedded in UD’s STAR Campus (Science, Technology and Advanced Research), the lab is already working closely with the GoBabyGo project operated by the physical therapy department. The PT, OT and speech therapy clinics are all open to the public, and undergraduates have the opportunity to get hands-on experience in patient care and research. Functional design is an amazing opportunity for creative students who are interested in helping people through the health care fields, but not necessarily in being directly involved in medicine. Interestingly, the Disability Studies minor is one of the largest minors on campus, so UD students definitely have an interest in this growing field.
Here’s a video with another example of how this innovative program bridges science and fashion (warning – grab some Kleenex before you hit play!).