Textiles student wins award for innovation in 3-D printing

Estefania Espinosa

A UT student created a model for 3-D printed shoes, made of lab-grown leather, that could perfectly fit an individual’s feet.

Textiles and apparel senior Avani Patel’s innovative shoe concept won the Geoffrey Beene YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund competition in January. The national competition is judged by a panel of top executives in the fashion industry. This year, the challenge was to design a product that embodied a sustainable theme and involved 3-D printing. Students received the prompt last April and had six months to complete their design.

“I was the first person from UT [to compete for the award],” Patel said. “There was no precedent for me. I had no idea what the bar was.”

Patel was the first UT representative because the University became a YMA member institution only two years ago. To be eligible for the $30,000 Geoffrey Beene competition, students must have received the $5,000 scholarship the year before, according to Nancy Prideaux, senior lecturer in the department of textiles and apparel. Last January, Patel was the recipient of the $5,000 award.

“We were the second university in Texas to be invited,” Prideaux said. “It’s a very prestigious group of universities and colleges. To be invited to join really elevates our program.”

Patel’s case study involved additional aspects such as orthopedic foot scanners and research into shock absorption.

“3-D printing wasn’t the only thing in my project,” Patel said. “It was a bit like ‘Shark Tank.’ It was basically a business pitch, with a financial introduction plan, concept board, process board, customer profile, etc. We were pretending these were actual potential investors.”

Sara Stewart Stevens, lecturer in the department of textiles and apparel, said she was not surprised Patel’s case study was a winner.

“I think it’s the idea paired with Avani’s dedication, thorough examination of the topic and the industry, and where her idea fits in the industry that makes it such a winning idea,” Stevens said. “It’s timely. It’s applicable. It’s doable. And it was well-executed.”

Prideaux said she hopes more students will take advantage of opportunities like this to network with top executives and win scholarship money.

“There’s so many people in the industry that want to play a role in the students’ success and the YMA is just one example of many,” Prideaux said. “It’s almost as if they’re looking at this as a way to replace themselves, which is really wonderful to see.”