Carnegie Mellon University

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June 13, 2017

Tech Dress a Collaborative Success

Carnegie Mellon University’s expertise in technology and the arts hit the red carpet at the 71st Annual Tony Awards in New York City.

CMU alumna Sophie Hood, who earned her master’s degree in costume production from the School of Drama in 2014, designed a “wearable tech” red dress worn by alumna Brittany McCandless. The dress, a top and skirt ensemble, lit up in response to McCandless’s heartbeat. The signal was controlled by a thistle-shaped brooch representing CMU’s Scottish heritage.

The LED lights and laser-cut graphics on the skirt represented the number of students at CMU and how students blend various fields of study in their educational experience.

Several collaborators from CMU worked with Hood, who’s also an adjunct drama instructor, to create the high-tech dress. The team included:

  • Matt Mukerjee, a Ph.D. student in computer science who is a hardware and software designer;
  • David Naylor, a Ph.D. student in computer science who is a software and graphic designer;
  • Lili Ehrlich, an alumna and mechanical engineering Ph.D. student who was the brooch designer and technical consultant;
  • Alison Gondek, a School of Drama graduate student who worked on the laser cutting;
  • Janel Sutkus, CMU’s director of Institutional Research and Analysis who provided the student data; and
  • Rachel Ralby, an alumna and costume designer.

"As an alumna, I'm proud of all that Carnegie Mellon stands for," said McCandless a 2008 graduate who is a digital producer for “60 Minutes” on CBS. "We are humanities, the arts, computers, robotics, engineering and the sciences. What made such an impact on me during my time there is how we are all interconnected. That's what we're showing through this dress."