PolyU organises Hong Kong's first competition on design-led technology for social good

HUNG HOM, Hong Kong - July 8, 2019 - PRLog -- The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) organised, in collaboration with The Mills Fabrica, the Grand Finals of "Techstyle for Social Good International Competition 2019" in late June to promote a new design approach - techstyle (i.e. intersection of technology and style) - in Hong Kong. One of the winners was a graduating student of PolyU whose design targets to help enhance the quality of life of amputees.

Sponsored by Create Hong Kong (CreateHK) of the HKSAR Government, the Competition held its Grand Finals on 28 June 2019 at The Mills Fabrica. With a target to creating awareness and sparking ideas for better techstyle designs, the Competition attracted entries from students of leading institutions around the world including Central Saint Martins of the University of the Arts London, the Royal College of Arts, the Parsons School of Design, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tsinghua University and PolyU, etc.

Among the 12 finalists, Miss Wendy LAW, a graduating student from the School of Design of PolyU, won the Hong Kong Best Design Award in the Competition with her project titled "Aesthesis - The partial hand accessories for amputees". This finger amputee prosthetic is a 3D-printed decorative device made of both soft and hard materials. Compared with the existing products, it is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also lighter in weight and more breathable. It can help cover up the lost part while extending the residual finger to provide more finger functions, such as holding a mobile phone, to enhance users' quality of lives.

Together with the other four winners, Miss Law would share prizes valued at over HK $680,000 in cash and kind sponsored by The Mills Fabrica. The other winners were:

Ÿ  Techstyle Grand Prize – Cair Collective by Amy Yu Chen and Claudia Poh (USA)

Ÿ  Sustainability Grand Prize – Heritage Craft Innovation by Christine Lew and Florian Wegenast (UK)

Ÿ  Techstyle Special Prize – The Hands Free Mouse by Hunmin Koh (USA)

Ÿ  Sustainability Special Prize – SEAM UNSEAM by Naila Al-Thani (UK)

(Please refer to the Appendix for detailed information about the winning projects.)

Prof. FAN Jin-tu, Head and Chair Professor of Institute of Textiles and Clothing (ITC), PolyU, said, "I am proud that ITC organised such a meaningful event to nurture young designers locally and internationally by offering them a platform to exchange ideas through the Techstyle for Social Good International Competition. They and their future designs will certainly bring about positive impacts to the global community."

The design journey has just begun for the award winners as they will have extensive post-competition support in terms of mentorships, residencies, as well as free work spaces and lab memberships at The Mills Fabrica. A series of networking opportunities will also be offered to the winners to exchange ideas with industry experts.

"All innovations take time, and no journey of innovation is ever singular. We hope this competition marks the start of a sustainable and collaborative journey of innovation for young talents." said Vanessa Cheung, Founder of The Mills and Managing Director of Nan Fung Group.

The judging panel, formed by ten distinguished industry experts and world-renowned design academics, was impressed by the participants' creative ideas and their sensitivity to social issues. The judges encouraged the finalists to continue exploring innovative techstyle designs for creating social impacts.

Shortlisted design entries of the International Competition are being showcased at The Mills till 26 August 2019, along with other design exhibits from leading academics and cutting-edge designers, who are also the panel of speakers of the "Designing Future Techstyle" International Symposium. The exhibition will be staged at PolyU's Fashion Gallery from 27 August 2019 to 22 September 2019. The public is welcome to visit the exhibition for free. Details of the exhibition are available online:



Techstyle for Social Good International Competition 2019

List of winners and the winning project descriptions

Prize: Techstyle Grand Prize
Winner: Amy Yu Chen and Claudia Poh, USA
Title of project: Cair Collective

The Cair Collective dressing system provides an automatic dressing experience that goes beyond a single user. Remove your assumptions around current systems of dressing and instead, consider the possibility of using air as a means of getting dressed. Using air in inflatable components that are installed in a garment causes the clothing item to rise. This allows the garment to work against gravity for an automatic dressing experience.

This might seem bizarre in fashion; however, in other fields, there have been the emergence and acceptance of self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and virtual assistants like Alexa. Cair Collective is the first step towards new possibilities in the fashion world. What if our clothes can do more for us and our body?

Cair Collective's first co-designing experience is with Christina Mallon. Christina has paralysis in her arms but taught herself to use her feet as her hands for the last eight years. We have prototyped and designed a series of five looks that Christina is independently able to don and doff without asking for help from others.

The process of designing universally allows us to cater to those who have been marginalised by the industry. The innovativeness and convenience can also contribute to new ways of dressing for everyone. Cair Collective believes in a fashion future that is human-centric, in which health elements are incorporated into design processes.

Prize: Techstyle Special Prize
Winner: Hunmin Koh, USA
Title of project: The Hands Free Mouse

The Hands-free Mouse is a wireless mouse designed for pedal input. People who have an arm disability are challenged with the majority of computer interfaces that have been developed with hand dexterity in mind. Thanks to modern technology, such as voice input and touch screens, the barriers to using electronics have been reduced, but for precision control that is required for some of the computer applications, it is difficult to surpass the flexibility of the good old mouse and cursor. While there are existing assistive devices that are designed for non-dexterity, the users may at times feel uncomfortable with their use because they are expensive, require a special setup, or draw too much attention to the user.

Most of the currently available types of foot-controlled mice have a separate input apparatus for clicking and positioning. This is because the leg muscles are not as sophisticated as the hand muscles. Therefore it is easy for the user to accidentally click the mouse when moving the cursor. When the foot is partially on the mouse, the heel which is in contact with the ground creates excessive traction force and prevents the cursor from moving smoothly. In order to solve this problem, the device must support the entire foot to reduce the traction forces and withstand the pressure of the leg in its relaxed state at the same time. With a relatively simple modification to an existing wireless mouse, the Hands-free Mouse is a straightforward and affordable type of assistive computer hardware.

Prize: Sustainability Grand Prize
Winner: Christine Lew and Florian Wegenast, United Kingdom
Title of project: Heritage Craft Innovation

Florian and Christine are collaborating to combine materiality, craftsmanship, and sustainability.  They would like to continue their design investigation on the materiality of local waste in Hong Kong through the Competition whilst supporting local craftsmanship. In continuing their exploration of waste glass and stone, they will extend their waste upcycling research to include waste textile fibres. Through these different materials, they will further explore the craft processes, while collaborating with local bars to obtain waste glass, a stone factory in China, textile factories, and local craftspeople, such as metal workers, glass artists and rope makers. Rope making is also a traditional craft in Hong Kong with maritime roots.

By exploring the materiality of waste, Florian and Christine would like to introduce these new upcycled materials to local craftspeople and extend the conversation of upcycling to more creative practitioners. The studio's belief is that their continuation of waste material research and collaboration in the crafts will help to address the city's waste issue, while supporting and bringing awareness to dying crafts that are native to Hong Kong.

Prize: Sustainability Special Prize
Winner: Naila Al-Thani, United Kingdom
Title of project: SEAM UNSEAM

In response to today's fashion that quickly transforms into tomorrow's waste in the fast-paced, short-lived linear cycle of consumption, SEAM UNSEAM is a design project that investigates garment longevity and sustainability through the use of alternative construction methods.

It has been estimated that over 85,000 garbage trucks of textiles end up in landfills daily, 1.7 billion items of clothing go unused in the UK alone, and some items may even be discarded after only several wears. Yet just three times longer use of clothing is the equivalent to a carbon footprint reduction of 65% and water usage reduction of 66%.

By assembling a garment with the use of a reversible biosynthetic protein strip in place of sewing with threads, not only will the construction time be reduced, but the contribution to environmental damage from the use of harmful dyes and chemicals for the threads is eliminated. The current recycling method is a process in which the seams are usually cut from the garment before the garment is shredded, which degrades the fibres. However, with the use of disassembly, the garment can be reverted back to flat textile pieces for return and reuse.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has reported that a circular economy in the textiles industry can be realised with actual garment utilisation which includes emotional durability; that is, when a wearer greatly values a garment because s/he sewed the item him/herself. One of the more effective ways of eliciting emotional durability is through a tailored fit, personalisation, and flexible design.

As the biosynthetic protein strip can be detached and re-attached when needed, and leaves no marks or damage on the fabric, garments can be quickly and easily repaired, altered, or transformed. Creating a more efficient system for disassembly and re-use can extend the life of a garment, as well as challenge the concept that there are limitations to design in order to produce responsible or sustainable clothes.

Prize: Hong Kong Best Design Award
Winner: Wendy Law, Hong Kong
Title of project: Aesthesis - The partial hand accessories for amputees

Most amputees are invisible in society and lack sufficient support. While the market continues to improve on upper and lower limb prosthetics and provide amputees with more functioning upper limbs, a large number of hand/finger amputees are hardly able to secure an appropriate prosthetic that would improve their quality of life and self-esteem.

Hand/finger amputees usually have to customise a glove-like hand prosthesis which is not only stuffy and heavy but also expensive. Many do not even want to wear a silicone prosthesis at all because of the physical discomfort. These thumb prostheses are only for "aesthetics" because they provide a realistic appearance to the hand without allowing controlled finger movement. The 3D-printed prostheses are a less costly option, but the mechanical structure dominates the design, making the prostheses less visually pleasing.

The ultimate goal of Aesthesis is to allow thumb amputees to regain autonomy over life, be it self-care ability or their social and family lives, as well as empower them to have self-confidence and self-appreciation. Aesthesis also aims to create a barrier-free environment.

Aesthesis is a 3D-printed functional aesthetic device on the hand for people who have lost their thumbs. Our finger prosthetic for amputees is a combination of a mechanically active prosthesis and a passive accessory, which is meant to substitute the missing thumbs and enhance the quality of life of hand amputees. In the longer run, Aesthesis strives to provide this customised service at a lower price with greater visual attractiveness.

Miss Evelyn Chan
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