NC State students win marine design contest using fabrics made in Norlina

CorrespondentAugust 24, 2013 

Photo Caption: The winners of the Glen Raven Marine Design Challenge were, left to right, N.C. State students Morgan Green and Lauren Michelakis, and far right Caroline Cox. Paige Mullis, Glen Raven concept development director, third from left, and Nancy Webster, N.C. State University practicum professor, directed the program.


N.C. State University students are making a splash in the world of design by tailoring fabric-based products for the boating industry.

Morgan Green, Lauren Michelakis and Caroline Cox, all studying fashion and textile management, won Glen Raven’s Marine Design Challenge to create products with female consumers in mind. The crew competed against 13 other teams from the College of Textiles.

“I think it was the sheer number of ideas that we had, and the fact that we really pushed the boundaries with our ideas,” Green said of the winning entries, which included a collapsible shelving system, a hanging seating arrangement, repositionable lounge blocks and an automatic extendable awning.

Their product ideas – all geared to efficiency and space conservation – earned the team the $1,500 grand prize in the contest.

Glen Raven, a Norlina-based company that produces performance fabrics such as the well-known Sunbrella line, launched the competition in light of research showing that while boating is primarily a men’s hobby, women are largely responsible for additional boating purchases and upgrades.

Glen Raven challenged the students to design products and boat features targeted at women. The participants had full access to the company’s products and were encouraged to find new uses for them.

Paige Mullis, director of the Concept Gallery at Glen Raven, said it was a very close call between first and second place.

“The deciding factor was based on several things: concept, commercialization potential, presentation, use of materials and knowledge of demographic,” she said.

Other teams focused on family entertainment, incorporating movie screens, a trampoline, a hammock and a putting green into their designs.

“We took a little bit of a different approach with it,” said Green, who is from Greenville. “We went for satisfying both the woman consumer and her husband. I think that really set us apart.”

The semester-long project took students in a bit of a different creative direction, as most previously had focused on apparel or interior design, Green said. Green said she felt lucky to have grown up near the Albemarle Sound, where boating is commonplace. Michelakis is from Wilmington and Cox from Holly Springs.

“Some of (the participants) had had some boating exposure,” Mullis said. “Most of the groups had not, leading to the fresh perspective. Sometimes when you don’t know enough, you tend to think differently.”

Nancy Webster, professor of Textile and Apparel Technology and Management at NCSU, said the students implemented classroom lessons on color, pattern design, consumer research and 3-Dform throughout their designs.

“The exposure to industry was really, really good for them,” Webster said. “They were in the hot seat.”

She said the biggest challenge for her students was “stepping out of the box and completely doing things that were unproven.”

“They tried things that had never been done before,” said Webster, who will accompany the winning students to Kentucky in the fall to present prototypes of their designs at a boat show.

With so few limitations and little knowledge of the fabrics available to them, the possibilities were overwhelming at times, Green said.

“It was weird having these fabrics and not knowing how exactly to use them,” Green said. “We were just blind guessing for a little bit of it.”

The judges were all businesspeople in the “pleasure boating” industry, who said they appreciated the students’ ideas because they offer a glimpse of what is going to be popular on the market soon, such as elements of personalization and sun-shading on boats.

The experience, Green said, was positive and eye-opening.

“This (challenge) was different because we got to work so closely with the company that was organizing it,” Green said. “They let us tour, told us what they were looking for, and at the very end they let us come back and present to their company.

“I think it was honestly probably one of the most beneficial competitions we’ve been in.”

Stewart: 919-829-4568

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