Empowering Communities

Solar Power Is In Style on the Fashion Runway

November 14, 2017

Students of this year’s Solar Spotlight Program know how to light up a room.

Designer Ronald Rodriguez guided Solar Spotlight students in crafting solar-powered fashion, including a solar-powered ball gown and dinner jacket. The two pieces were worn by fashion models who lit up the runway at this year’s Latino Fashion Week. The illuminated designs received an electrifying chorus of cheers from the audience.

“This year’s Solar Spotlight Program was a good experience for the teens because it showed how fashion, science and technology can work together,” says Ronald, a Chicago-based chemist by day and fashion designer by night.

“I was impressed with the students’ creativity and enthusiasm to learn about STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math. I believe they will be able to take the lessons they learned at the Solar Spotlight workshops and use them to build their future careers,” he says.

Designer Ronald Rodriguez guided students in crafting solar-powered fashion.

Designer Ronald Rodriguez guided students in crafting solar-powered fashion.

Ronald, who is a big fan of vibrant, elegant ball gowns, designed the dress with tulle and double-faced satin silk organza. With a spark of creativity, Ronald used soft shades of blue, green and lavender with a splash of yellow and pink on the translucent fabric so that the lights would shine through the fabric and glow down the runway.

ComEd’s Sarah Noll, a business analyst, worked with Ronald to connect the solar panels to the dress and jacket using wires and industrial-strength glue.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” says Noll, who built and raced solar-powered racecars in college.

Sarah used NASA-grade solar cells and arranged them to fit the dress’s neckline and belt. She connected the cells to the fabric with industrial-strength glue. The cells were connected to each other with tabbing wire that she ran behind the fabric at the neckline and on the belt to allow them to curve to the shape of the model’s body without being seen. She connected the panels to wires that hooked into a battery pack concealed under the dress. Hundreds of feet of fairy lights were sewn into the dress and were all connected to the battery packs. The solar connected lights lit up the entire dress and target areas of the men’s jacket.

The students added colorful, artistic designs to both the dress and the jacket.

“I asked the students to decorate the entire dress and jacket’s collar with words or artwork that was related to their Hispanic Heritage,” says Ronald, a native of Puerto Rico who moved to Chicago in 2009.

ComEd’s 2017 Solar Spotlight Program brought together Latino students for a two-day immersion session focused on STEAM. Following the Latino Fashion Week gala in September, the one-of-a-kind fashion pieces were put on display at the National Museum of Mexican Art and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. Learn more at www.ComEd.com/SolarSpotlight