Radford University and Radford City Public Schools collaborate on the Techno Prom Make Event

Radford student Iris Fuentes helps Dalton Intermediate student Alia Saunders with the finer points of fashion design.

The worlds of fashion and high technology collided for a group of intrepid middle school students at Radford University's Techno Prom Maker Events.

In collaboration with Radford faculty members and students, the visiting young DIY-ers learned how to use lights, electronics and 3-D design and printing technology to craft formal attire and accessories from recyclables.

Eighteen students from Dalton Intermediate in Radford attended the two events held in the university's Peery Hall makerspace on Feb. 20 and 27.

Dalton students Alex Dunn and Alia Saunders were drawn to the program because it gave them a chance to explore their fashion design skills. The pair collaborated on designing a single dress and found compromise was the key to a unified vision.

"We started doing two designs, but we have to put them together and make one, and then we actually make it," Dunn said. Even though they disagreed on some points of the dress, they were able to get the job done.

"We agreed to keep the same sort of top we both liked," Saunders said. "And one design was short and the other one was long, so we decided to do a length in the middle."

While Saunders and Dunn worked out their design and thought about recyclable materials to use to make it - with the help of Radford University students Iris Fuentes and Ivelianys Mena - another young maker was thinking about smart lights.

Landon Roop, also of Dalton Intermediate, signed up for the event when his teacher told him he would get to experiment with 3-D printing and smart lights. He set to work making a "smart" belt buckle with help from Department of Design Chair Holly Cline and Professor of Biology Jeremy Wodjak.

"I want the lights to be around the outside," Roop said looking at a paper drawing of his triangular buckle design. "I wasn't quite sure I could even do that, but now I know that it's possible with the lights and machines."

Cline showed Roop the ropes on the makerspace's CAD programs and 3-D printers and helped bring his design off of the page.

"It was so cool, getting to sketch everything out and then make it happen," Roop said.


Iris Fuentes, Alia Saunders, Alex Dunn and Ivelianys Mena found collaboration to be necessary before they could move forward with choosing recycled and found materials - like duct tape - to make a dress.

The Techno Prom events were introductions for students to the maker movement, a national initiative combining technology-based, do-it-yourself creativity in a social environment oriented toward the creation of new electronic, robotic and 3-D printing devices among others.

Wodjak has been a proponent of bringing maker mentality to campus.

"It's about solving your own problems, rather than just going to buy some product," he said. "The idea that the individual can solve his or her own problem is not discipline specific at all. It's a mindset. Kids think this way already and, at some point, we lose it. We lose the willingness to play, experiment, find things out."

Events like the Techno Prom encourage kids - and their university faculty and student mentors - to embrace that way of thinking. Wojdak's partner on linking young makers with college-aged ones is Jennifer Eller '99, M.S. '12, a Dalton Intermediate School CTE Teacher.

According to Eller, previous events have been successful, but drew out male students. The Techno Prom activities - based on design, personal expression and recycling - were designed to appeal to boys and girls alike.


Kijani Grinage, a junior fashion design major at Radford, was asked to help out as a student volunteer by a professor, but found himself engaged with the opportunity to make.

"Where I come from, we didn't have anything like this," Grinage said. "I hadn't had the experience to make anything. I'm learning from this too."

Radford University is a member of the Make School Alliance.

Radford joins 47 other colleges and universities - such as Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Yale, Penn State and the University of Michigan - which are recognized nationally for a commitment to making and innovation and support of a generation of Americans who make.

The Makers and Innovators community at Radford is a part of the the university's High Impact Practices division, which was developed in 2014 to support and promote the development of transformational undergraduate educational experiences within and beyond the classroom.

Mar 1, 2016