Apparel Students Make Garment Contributions for Science Olympiad

Authored by Matthew Gundrum, Jordan Rasmussen, Brittany Gunderson and Jake Smith; students in Assistant Professor Kate Edenborg’s ENGL 407: Seminar in Applied Journalism class in the professional communications and emerging media program.

There seems to be a recurring theme in the Science Olympiad’s mission: to physically manifest the concept of science. The activities at this event are offered by the organization to get young scholars around the country invested in problem solving, analytics, and innovative thinking.

However, the students involved in the competition are not the only ones learning.

Enter the UW-Stout Apparel and Communication Technologies Department. In preparation for the Olympiad, the program is creating three specialized garment types for the emcee, judges, and volunteers. Throughout this entire process there exists a crucial, interwoven thread of prime educational value that connects the students involved.

The project is extensive and many students over the course of multiple semesters have contributed.

“Eighteen students are working on it currently, and approximately sixty people have touched it throughout three semesters,” said Sheri Marnell, an adjunct UW-Stout apparel professor.


“The first [garment] is the vest which is being worn by the volunteers,” said Leslie Berlin, a UW–Stout sophomore in the apparel program. These vests are being created in Berlin’s garment engineering class, which is taught by Marnell. This class focuses merely on the production aspects of the vests as they were designed by previous students.

“We are basically simulating a manufacturing plant. So every person in the class holds a different position in the facility and it takes place in our lab in Fryklund [Hall]. So for example, I’m pressing manager, so whenever the garment gets to a point where it needs to be pressed it’s my job to do that,” said Berlin.


Berlin has also been involved with the creation of the black lab coats for judges in another class titled Specification and Fit Development.

“We had to develop a sizing chart to go off of and then we did all of the grading,” said Berlin, in reference to the lab coats. Grading is a process of systematically increasing or decreasing a particular garment to meet a desired fit. “So we are sewing all of the coats once we find a grade that fits all of our models,” she said.

In addition to the lab coats and vests, a third, more complex set of garments are being made.

Sophomore Megan Bartylla, an apparel design student at UW-Stout, is currently on the research team creating the two, Aurora Borealis-inspired dresses for the emcee. Both Bartylla and the research team, of which Berlin is also a part of, have put forth a great deal of scrutiny towards the science behind the dress.


“We have chosen fabrics for compression [purposes] that have cooling and wicking properties.  We have also taken into consideration the fiber dye-ability needed to create our planned dress,” said Bartylla.  The dresses will also have illumination abilities that add an entirely new element to the design process. “Different electrical components such as LED lights and sensors with coding will be added as well,” she said.

The emcee dresses, which will be worn by associate professor of science Judy Hopp for the opening and closing ceremonies, have undergone an extensive labor process.

“We’ve literally been working on two dresses since September. That’s thousands [of hours]. One of the dresses could go for $7,000 to $8,000,” said apparel design program director Gindy Neidermeyer. She added that the dresses will be made of a mermaid fabric that will allow for changes of color when subjected to touch and light.

The dresses were originally conceptualized in Neidermeyer’s functional design class. However, the class struggled to find approval for the designs. To find a stronger concept, Neidermeyer brought in her personal research team comprising of Berlin, Bartylla, and two other students. Following an intensive research process, the team was finally able to reach what is currently the unique concept for both dresses.


“It’s a big learning curve,” said Neidermeyer. “There’s lots of errors, lots of taking out seams, and lots of reanalyzing where production issues arise.”

But developing these garments for the National Olympiad provides an immensely valuable opportunity for the students.

“The one thing that they don’t often get is real client [experience]. Lot of times in college it’s the dream and vision of the designer but no real necessary reason to change their mind about why they did something,” said Neidermeyer. “But when they work for a client and the client says ‘Hm, not so sure,’ you really got to figure out how to make it right.”

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