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Felecia Davis named 2018-2021 Carey Memorial Early Career Professor in the Arts for knitted light tension structure

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Felecia Davis 2019

Felecia Davis, assistant professor in the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing in Penn State’s Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, has been appointed the second recipient of the College of Arts and Architecture’s Agnes Scollins Carey Memorial Early Career Professorship in the Arts.

Davis will use the funds—up to $20,000 each year for three years—to lead a multiphase, collaborative research project that will involve constructing a 1:1 scaled demonstration prototype for a solar photovoltaic (PV) fiber tension shade using fiber optic strands to understand the problems and potential for both PV fibers and fiber optic strands in textiles.

The goal of the endowed professorship, established by the children of Agnes Scollins Carey, is to help the College of Arts and Architecture compete for, support and retain outstanding scholars and practitioners in the arts in the early stages of their careers. Ted Christopher, associate professor of music, was the first recipient of the professorship, which was established in 2014.

The project, which continues Davis’s work as director of SOFTLAB@PSU with computational fabrics and research on PV textile development, has three principle tasks: 1) Design and manufacture a bespoke textile for the tension structure that substitutes PV fibers with fiber optic strands and to explore the potential of fiber optic strands in a bespoke textile; 2) Design and fabricate the compressive tension structure to hold the PV textile; and 3) Design, model and analyze the electronic system and gathering capacity for the PV textile system, as well as other potentials for fiber optic strand systems, such as textile ambient lighting and textile antennas.

“The project is an opportunity to test out lightweight tension structures that not only provide shelter and gather energy but also hold the potential to communicate through each other using fiber optic strands in combination with other fibers that will allow people to form other kinds of networks,” Davis said. “Perhaps these networks are not connected to a centralized grid that in turn will change how people plan out their livelihoods and communities.”

Davis’s work with computational fabrics is currently featured in a Penn State Outreach campaign highlighting the impactful work of faculty across the University.

According to Davis, with this project, the Stuckeman School will become the only school of architecture or design in the United States to provide students with the opportunity to design and manufacture a textile to create a tension structure with bespoke knitted fabric that tests the capacity to collect energy from the sun as well as test potentials for other functions such as communication by embedding fiber optic and other strands into the tent fabric. 

“The project is significant because it will build experience and knowledge in full scale tension structures via hands on construction,” Davis said. “In addition, during this project faculty and students will be exposed to knitted textile manufacturing processes which are not currently in evidence at Penn State. “   

Project collaborators include Delia Demitrescu, professor at the Swedish School of Textiles and director of the Smart Textiles Lab; Kristian Rödby, master knitting and teaching technician, Swedish School of Textiles; Jeffrey Brownson, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State; and Tim Baird, professor emeritus of landscape architecture at Penn State, Stephen Treado, professor emeritus of the college of engineering. Advisers to the project are faculty John Badding, professor of chemistry, Noel Chris Gebink, assistant professor of electrical engineering, and Enrique Gomez, professor of chemical engineering in the material science research institute all at Penn State. Current and graduated members of the student team, representing the colleges of Science, Engineering, and Arts and Architecture, are Sadiqa Ansari , Pomi Aschenaki, Diva Avenoor, Zainab Hakanian, Xiao Han, Mona Mirzaie ,Niloofar Nikookar, Vernelle Noel, Farzaneh Oghazian,  and Siddarth Swaminathan.

For more on Davis’s work, see the Penn State feature story at https://www.psu.edu/feature/2017/10/10/smart-fabrics.