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Student team continues to develop thermal bra for breast cancer survivors


From left to right, Hayley Rusicka, Susanne Wroblewski, Augusta Overy and Emily Austin pose around “Norman” the thermal mannequin they used to test their product in the Engineering and Technology Building. 

The creation of a specialized bra for women who have undergone mastectomy surgery is one step closer to reality.

Inspired by the College of Business Administration's annual New Venture Competition, four Central Michigan University students under the team name Embrace are working to create the bra to help survivors of breast cancer.

Cancer survivors who've had mastectomies tend to feel cold because implants, which are typically filled with either silicone gel or saline, fail to preserve body heat. Embrace's thermal bra is designed to prevent natural body heat from escaping by insulating the breast region.

“I think the impact is huge,” said Shelby Township sophomore Emily Austin, one of the core Embrace team members. “There are so many women who are going through life everyday feeling uncomfortable and we hope these bras will be able to fix that.”

Embrace comprises Austin; Augusta Overy and Hayley Rusicka, who have both graduated from CMU; and Susanne Wroblewski, graduate student and coordinator for the Apparel Merchandising and Design Lab. 

Overy, who majored in fashion merchandising and design and now works as temporary staff for CMU, played a large part in creating the design for the bra – envisioning the product doing a lot of good for the women who use it.

During the New Venture Competition last March, Embrace won $250 in funding for the bras through an audience choice award.

“We’re hoping to make life easier for mastectomy patients,” Overy said. “We’re hoping that they don’t have to be reminded of this terrible thing they went through.” 

The idea for the bra came from CMU alumna and breast cancer survivor Jodie Faber, who brought the idea to Spectrum Health Innovations. Spectrum then shared it with the members of Embrace.

Wroblewski is still working with the members of group to develop the product for women who have expressed interest in the product. She created a survey for women who suffered from this problem to see what they wanted so the group could adapt the product to fit their needs.

Since the conclusion of last year's New Venture Competition, the group has been working to improve upon the design of the product, Overy said. 

Rusicka said the group had to overcome a few obstacles, like distance from one another since the majority of the group has graduated, to get to where they are now. She praised the other members of her group for staying on the same page and coordinating despite being far away from each other.