MIT was the site of a three-day hackathon recently, which brought together students and researchers from MIT and around Boston who developed functional fabric concepts to solve major issues, including those facing soldiers in combat or training, first responders, victims and workers in refugee camps. The event was hosted by the MIT Innovation Initiative, the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Institute, and MD5, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and a network of national research universities.
According to MIT, participants pitched their ideas on Friday night. By Sunday afternoon, more than 20 teams stationed around the MIT Media Lab’s sixth floor had design mockups drawn on poster boards, algorithms and brainstorming notes scribbled on large sheets of hanging paper, and even hardware and software prototypes on display.
Two teams were chosen as the event’s winners: “Remote Triage,” formed by MIT students, designed an automated triage system for field medics consisting of sensor-laden clothing that detects potential injury and a web platform that prioritizes care. The other team, Security Blanket, designed a double-sided, multipurpose blanket for people displaced from their homes, based on an idea from a Drexel University student.
Some other ideas included:
- Smart belts that passively detect radiation exposure in submarines
- Military gear fitted with radio-frequency identification tags to manage materials and improve packing efficiency
- Biometric-monitoring stickers that detect potential post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms
- Lightweight body armor designed to better protect the heart and neck
- Stress-detecting shirts that improve military training exercises
- Uniforms made with materials and tiny fans that deliver cool and hot airflow across the body.
All teams were invited to continue their work. Through the hackathon participants were also introduced to AFFOA (a consortium of which MIT is a partner) and learned about the possibilities of functional fabrics.