One of the great pleasures of my job is that I get a first-hand view of the always-inspiring and innovative work FIT faculty and students create here on a regular basis. But sometimes, even I am surprised and taken aback by the ingenious, cutting-edge projects our researchers undertake. And it is very gratifying to me when this work earns the public attention it so richly deserves.
So I am delighted that FIT’s “AlgiKnit” research team has won $25,000 from National Geographic’s “Chasing Genius” contest, which aims to promote “game-changing ideas around the issues of global health, world hunger, and environmental sustainability.”
Just last year, I wrote about the team’s earlier project, “Bioesters,” which had then taken home the top award in the first annual BioDesign Challenge. They won for “growing” a flexible yarn from algae—and used it to knit a baby’s tee shirt. The latest AlgiKnit project is refining and perfecting this algae-based yarn.
The NatGeo contest winners, announced in September, included four categories — Sustainable Planet, Global Health, Feeding 9 Billion, and People’s Choice. Winners were picked from more than 2,800 applicants.
FIT’s AlgiKnit team won the Sustainable Planet category for its “sustainable, bio-based textile alternatives into the 21st Century footwear and apparel industries.”
The small team—five people in all—includes Asta Skocir, associate professor in Fashion Design, and Theanne Schiros, an assistant professor who teaches physics, chemistry, and sustainability. Aleksandra Gosiewski and Tessa Callahan, both recent FIT graduates, are team members as well. Each took the knitwear specialization in the Fashion Design program, though they are now working in industry. Aaron Nesser, another team member, is now in the master’s degree program in industrial design at the Pratt Institute.
So, not only is AlgiKnit a ground-breaking and award-winning project that merges design and science—a growing phenomenon on campus—it also is another example of the kinds of innovative, real-world solutions to real-world problems that FIT is capable of producing.