Breakthrough Tool Wins NSF Funding
Computational Textiles, Inc., a cutting-edge startup cofounded by Associate Professor of Textiles Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX (above, far right) and Cornell Professor of Computer Science Steve Marschner, has earned a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The funding will support ongoing research and development of Weft, a breakthrough tool for designing textiles that the new company hopes to release this spring.
“We are excited to have the resources to bring this product to market and continue our work with leading industry partners,” says the team’s Principal Investigator Bill Foulkes, an Industrial Design faculty member known for his expertise in entrepreneurship.
In 2015 Hagan and Marschner won major support from the NSF to further their research into textiles visualization. “By contrast,” the designer notes, “the SBIR grant is reserved for projects that will make a real economic or societal impact.”
Three other alumni – Jerel Johnson MFA 14 GD, Nick Penney MFA 14 DM and Catherine (Cieslewicz) Duffy MFA 13 GD – are also working on Weft, which will provide user-friendly, direct access to the manufacturing floor. “Hit ‘print’ and your design goes directly to a Jacquard loom,” Hagan says. The fabric sample will then be mailed to the designer for close inspection.
“We hope that this seed funding will spark solutions to some of the important challenges of our time across all areas of science and technology,” notes Barry Johnson, director of the NSF’s Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. Only 16 NSF SBIR Phase I awards have been granted in Rhode Island since 1991.
Having just won part of a $1.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation, Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX is leading RISD’s new Virtual Textiles Research Group.
For the last year, a consortium of nine Rhode Island colleges and universities—including RISD, Brown and the University of Rhode Island (URI)—has been engaged in a joint, multiyear project to investigate the impact of climate change on marine life.
As one of two winners of a 2014 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship, Providence-based designer Amy Bernhardt 95 PR will use her $300,000 grant to launch Colorfast, a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing facility for designing and producing digitally printed textiles.