STEM program teaches middle school girls Fashion FUNdamentals

A team of faculty members in the Department of Design and Merchandising has received funding from the American Honda Foundation to pilot Fashion FUNdamentals, an innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment program for middle school girls.

Fashion FUNdamentals is a free two-week summer program taking place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday from June 15 to June 26 in the Gifford Building on the Colorado State University campus.

(Click to enlarge.)

The program is founded upon the premise that adolescent girls’ passion for fashion can be tapped to nurture girls’ skills in the STEM disciplines and to foster their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Fashion FUNdamentals is open to girls entering sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in the fall of 2015. It will serve a diverse group of adolescents, as it aims to focus on populations that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

STEM through fashion

Technical programming activities will engage girls in hands-on application of science, technology, engineering and math concepts to develop solutions to real-world problems in the fashion industry. Girls will learn about topics like fiber science, digital body scanning and measurement, and will design a textile print that will be applied to fabric using digital printing technology. Girls will then use the fabrics they create to design and sew a garment such as a dress.

Social programming activities will address key issues among adolescent girls, such as body image, media literacy, nutrition, bullying, and computer and Internet safety, in an effort to positively influence girls’ self-esteem as well as their academic performance. In the body image and media literacy unit, girls will build understanding of how media may influence body-related feelings and behaviors by critically analyzing the meanings and potential social consequences of media messages in teen magazines. Then, girls will define their individual “healthy style” and image of beauty by designing t-shirts to promote body-positive messages.

(Click to enlarge.)

“Research indicates that female students’ interest in math and science often declines during the middle school years, and there also is evidence to suggest that extracurricular programs focused on math and science education can improve adolescent girls’ self-esteem and academic self-efficacy,” said Karen Hyllegard, an associate professor of design and merchandising and Fashion FUNdamentals team member. “As such, with Fashion FUNdamentals, we aim to provide an innovative, technology-rich learning experience that has the potential to foster girls’ interest and aptitude in the STEM disciplines, which form the foundation for advances in today’s global fashion industry, while at the same time enhancing their self-esteem.”

Conceived 4 years ago

Fashion FUNdamentals has been in the development stages since 2011, when Hyllegard and her colleague Jen Ogle first conceived the idea to leverage girls’ interest in fashion to promote STEM education to middle school girls. In addition to the funding from theAmerican Honda Foundation, the program was developed with the support of a mini-grant from the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Enrollment in Fashion FUNdamentals will be limited to 75 girls, and priority will be given to girls who participate in the free and reduced lunch program.

(Click to enlarge.)

For more information on the program, visit The application form is available at The registration deadline is April 20. For more information contact Hyllegard at

The faculty:

Faculty team members from the CSU Department of Design and Merchandising include Karen Hyllegard, Jen Ogle, Diane Sparks, Vivian Li and Juyeon Park.

Karen Hyllegard teaches courses in apparel merchandising, advertising and promotion, and retail store design. Hyllegard will deliver the apparel costing and pricing unit.

Jennifer Ogle teaches courses in the social psychology of appearance and research methods. Ogle will deliver the body image and media literacy unit.

Diane Sparks teaches courses in apparel and textile design and computer-aided design. Sparks will deliver the digital textile printing unit.

Vivian Li teaches courses in textile testing and analysis. Li will deliver the textile science unit.

Juyeon Park, co-director of the Human Body Dimensioning Facility at Colorado State University, teaches courses in apparel design, product development, and computer-aided design. Park will deliver the product design and development unit.