Recent breakthroughs in fiber materials and manufacturing processes have allowed design and production of advanced functional fabrics that see, hear, sense, communicate, store, and convert energy, regulate temperature, monitor health, and change color. These technologies are positioned to create high-value products which can revitalize domestic textile manufacturing and generate high-quality jobs. However, manufacturing fabrics with advanced capabilities requires a workforce with new skill sets.
AFFOA established a partnership between Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS), MIT – Edgerton Center, and AFFOA HQ to develop technical high school curriculum of Advanced Functional Fabrics. This program is aimed at developing the next generation of multi-skilled manufacturers by exposing students to a myriad of technical skills in the context of manufacturing advanced functional fabrics.
The objective of the partnership is to develop an introductory Advanced Functional Fabrics (AFF) Career Pathway curricula at the technical high school level within GLTS’ Machine Technology and STEAM Innovation Program that can be replicated in other venues. The curricula develops and brings together skill-sets that crosscuts many industries inside and outside of advanced functional fabrics, therefore providing students with multiple industry career pathways. The initial curriculum was rolled out to students in October 2018. The curricula continues to be developed, and by the end of 2019 will include all of the following elements:
- How Advanced Functional Fabrics are made (e.g. equipment, processes, materials);
- Introduction to product and market applications and design of fiber, textile and products;
- Project-based coursework that enables students to design and prototype new product and market applications that lead to better lives for our citizens and society; and
- Build capacity in students to go from an idea phase, to prototyping and communicating ideas in production improvement, to physical production and testing of the product.
AFFOA has leveraged funding from the Commonwealth to secure equipment for Advanced Functional Fabrics necessary equipment needed to be placed at GLTS. By equipping GLTS with additional equipment and expertise they become an extension trainer for technical high school students.
Midway through 2019, AFFOA, MIT, and GLTS will begin the process of expanding the reach of the AFF curricula to other interested parties, including and not limited to: technical high schools, general education K-12, community colleges, and Fabric Discovery Centers needing training and development for their staff. In addition to GLTS curricula development, AFFOA will also partner with program providers such as NuVu Studios, and MIT and Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), to scale the reach of the AFF curriculum to take different shapes and forms such as: two week intensives, open studio sprint models, entrepreneurial boot camps, etc.