IET Backpack Hero

Backpack to the future as the IET unveils biodegradable school bag

Image credit: IET

The IET has announced the world’s first biodegradable school backpack, to accompany a survey revealing that children predict a sustainable vision for future fashion powered by STEM.

The survey of 1,000 5 to 13-year-olds - conducted by 3Gem on behalf of the IET - asked the Generation Alpha (Gen A) children to predict the kind of clothes people would be wearing in the future, with the integration of technology coming across as a clear theme throughout the responses.

The IET is now launching a competition to inspire Gen A fashionistas and spark excitement about how STEM can help make their fashion predictions come true.

Over the next 40 years, one-third of the children surveyed predicted that we’ll see flying shoes (35 per cent) and clothes that teleport you to different places (33 per cent) on our shop shelves. Six in ten children (60 per cent) believe that we’ll be able to buy a hat that allows you to play video games with your mind, while just over one-third (37 per cent) foresee telepathic headwear.

As well as the benefits to our recreational lives, children also feel fashion will play a key role in wider societal change and helping to solve sustainability challenges. Three-quarters (74 per cent) envisage outfits that are able to decompose leaving no waste behind; approximately half (49 per cent) anticipate clothes that can regulate your temperature, and 41 per cent can picture bionic trousers that help people with disabilities to walk. A third (34 per cent) also said that lots of their friends already wear gadgets which help them do more in their day-to-day lives.

The children also placed function over form, with the majority of kids claiming that garments which are made sustainably (86 per cent) or help improve people’s health (71 per cent) are more important than ‘looking cool’.

Fashion still plays a significant role in young peoples' culture, with recognition of brands being established from an increasingly young age: 89 per cent of children said they like to decide which clothes they wear, while 84 per cent chose the backpack they wear to school – one of the prime opportunities they have to express their style choices amongst their friends.

To inspire these Gen A fashionistas and spark their excitement about how STEM can help make their fashion predictions come true, the IET has partnered with global fashion brand Hype and Biophilica – winners of the IET/Fashion District Manufacturing Futures Innovation Challenge 2021 for their ground-breaking, fully biodegradable, TreeKind leaf leather – to create the world’s first biodegradable backpack (pictured).

IET Backpack Inline 1

Image credit: IET

The prototype has been created to celebrate the launch of the IET’s ‘Backpack to the Future’ campaign, a national competition inviting 5 to 13-year-olds to design their own backpack with STEM-inspired gadgets or capabilities that help them do incredible things.

The winner of the ‘Backpack to the Future’ competition will have a working prototype of their design made and will get to see a backpack inspired by their design displayed in Hype’s new flagship London store, allowing everyone to come and see part of their vision of future fashion brought to life by one of their favourite brands.

Mira Nameth from Biophilica said: “It’s fascinating to see young people's predictions for what fashion of the future will be like. As passionate innovators in our industry it’s also really encouraging that so many are striving for a more sustainable future.

“Our Treekind material is free of plastic, recyclable and compostable. To partner with the IET and a high-street brand like Hype to make the world’s first biodegradable school backpack is extremely exciting. STEM is now at the heart of innovations in the fashion industry and these developments will inevitably continue to move from high end to high street in the coming years.”

According to the IET's research, only one in ten (10 per cent) of chidlren think that engineers work in fashion, while just 16 per cent said they understand how science and fashion are related. The IET’s competition aims to change perceptions and show children how they are able to combine their passion for fashion with a STEM-related career.

Bav Samani, Hype co-founder and CEO, added: “Hype has been at the forefront of children’s lifestyle-fashion for over a decade. Teaming up with the IET and Biophilica just had to be done, working together to pioneer sustainable developments in the field and encouraging more young people to get excited about STEM.

“We can’t wait to see the designs that kids come up with as part of the competition and to turn one of the ideas into a reality will be incredible with the involvement of our Carnaby, London, flagship!”

IET Backpack Inline 2

Image credit: IET

The competition is open from 27 September until 30 October 2022. To enter, children simply have to sketch their backpack design along with a description of how it works.

Entries will be judged on originality, feasibility, creativity and engineering practices by a panel of experts including Professor Danielle George MBE, from the IET; Dr Ciara McGrath, the IET’s current Young Woman Engineer of the Year; Bav Samani and Liam Green, co-founders of Hype, and Mira Nameth, founder of Biophilica.

Professor George said: “Over the past decade we’ve seen an expanding fusion of fashion, engineering and technology through the universal rollout of things like wearables and adaptive clothing.

“It’s inevitable that these developments will continue to progress over the coming years and we’ll see a growing number of opportunities for engineers and technicians in the world of fashion.

“With this competition we hope that children can really connect with their creative sides and generate some fantastic ideas for clothes that can help to engineer a better world – and also that it demonstrates to them that STEM-related careers represent a world of possibilities.”

Alongside the competition, the IET, Biophilica and Hype have released a ‘Factpack’, which contains a number of fun facts demonstrating to children the links between fashion and STEM, as well as illustrating the ways in which engineers and technicians are currently involved in the fashion industry.

The competition entry form and ‘Factpack’ are available to download online.

Further information about the campaign, and much more, is available on the IET's 'Engineer A Better World' website. Engineer A Better World is an annual campaign run by the IET that is dedicated to celebrating STEM careers and getting young people passionate about becoming the inventors and creators of the future.

The top 10 fashion items children hope to see

Future fashion

1. Biodegradable clothes (74 per cent)

2. Clothes that can regulate temperature (49 per cent)

3. Bionic trousers that can help people with disabilities to walk (41 per cent)

4. Clothes that give you energy (38 per cent)

5. Shoes that can generate electricity (35 per cent)

6. Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities (35 per cent)

7. A watch that can measure and boost energy levels (34 per cent)

8. A backpack that can heat food (32 per cent)

9. Clothes that grow at the same rate as you (28 per cent)

10. Clothes which can tell if you’re getting ill (27 per cent) / heal you if you get a cut or bruise (27 per cent)

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