Bicycles

Paper bike helmet bags James Dyson prize

Paper bike helmet bags James D...
Isis Shiffer takes to the streets with her award-winning design
Isis Shiffer takes to the streets with her award-winning design
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The inventor in her lab
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The inventor in her lab
James Dyson tries on the EcoHelmet 
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James Dyson tries on the EcoHelmet 
Work in progress
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Work in progress
The helmet's stretchy design enables it to fit the heads of most riders
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The helmet's stretchy design enables it to fit the heads of most riders
Isis Shiffer, the inventor of the EcoHelmet
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Isis Shiffer, the inventor of the EcoHelmet
Isis Shiffer takes to the streets with her award-winning design
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Isis Shiffer takes to the streets with her award-winning design
EcoHelmet folds smaller and costs less to produce than conventional helmets. When folded, 12-15 of them can be fitted into a standard helmet box, thus reducing shipping costs 
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EcoHelmet folds smaller and costs less to produce than conventional helmets. When folded, 12-15 of them can be fitted into a standard helmet box, thus reducing shipping costs 
The helmet's honeycomb structure makes it super strong
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The helmet's honeycomb structure makes it super strong
Its lightweight and foldable design means it doesn't take up extra space or weigh you down
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Its lightweight and foldable design means it doesn't take up extra space or weigh you down
If you have room to pack a banana, you have room to pack the EcoHelmet
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If you have room to pack a banana, you have room to pack the EcoHelmet
With this disposable helmet, users don't have to put up with another person's sweat and grime
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With this disposable helmet, users don't have to put up with another person's sweat and grime
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Proof that innovation does not have to be expensive, this year's Dyson Prize goes to American designer Isis Shiffer for her invention of the EcoHelmet, a foldable paper helmet that aims to reduce the risk of cyclists getting head injuries for just $5.

While wearing a bicycle helmet is not a silver bullet against accidents, it can reduce the risk of incurring fatal head injuries in the event of one, as various statistics have shown over the years. Shiffer was inspired to come up with the EcoHelmet when she noticed a problem with bike-sharing programs – namely that rental bicycles didn't come with helmets. Tired of lugging her own around and certain that she wasn't the only one, she decided to come up with a solution that would make it easier and safer for more people to ride a bike.

The inventor in her lab
The inventor in her lab

While there have been earlier attempts to come up with a cardboard helmet, they have for the most part been a niche idea. If all goes to plan, the EcoHelmet has the potential to reach a far larger audience. Made from cardstock paper, Shiffer's invention is designed to be affordable, recyclable and safe. Its radial honeycomb cell structure enables it to withstand impact from all directions, protecting the user's head just as well as a regular polystyrene helmet, she says. In a test using a crash-testing rig, it was able to withstand the impact caused by a 10-pound object dropped from a height of three feet.

Shiffer spent a year and a half perfecting the design while still a student at New York's Pratt Institute of Design (she has since graduated) and tested the prototype at Imperial College in London while on an exchange program in the UK. "They had a European standard helmet crash setup that allowed me to gather enough data on Ecohelmet's proprietary honeycomb configuration to know it was viable and worth developing," she said.

With this disposable helmet, users don't have to put up with another person's sweat and grime
With this disposable helmet, users don't have to put up with another person's sweat and grime

Apart from bragging rights, Shiffer also receives £30,000 to further develop her invention as international winner of the James Dyson Award. For a start, further testing needs to be done before it can be sold in the US as federal safety standards require bike helmets to be able to withstand impact from the equivalent of a six-and-a-half feet drop. She has since joined forces with a team of LA-based branding, retail and marketing veterans to realize her goal of bringing the EcoHelmet to market. It is expected to sell for around $5 and its foldable design means we could see it being dispensed from vending machines at bike-share stations.

Its lightweight and foldable design means it doesn't take up extra space or weigh you down
Its lightweight and foldable design means it doesn't take up extra space or weigh you down

"EcoHelmet solves an obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way. But its simplicity belies an impressive amount of research and development," commented British inventor James Dyson in a statement. "I look forward to seeing EcoHelmets used in bike shares across the world."

James Dyson tries on the EcoHelmet 
James Dyson tries on the EcoHelmet 

The James Dyson Award is an international competition that challenges design and engineering students and recent graduates to come up with innovative solutions to the world's problems. Previous winning entries have included a beetle-inspired irrigation device that can harvest water from air and a portable inflatable incubator.

The two runners-up for this year's award were asthma management system Respia, which tracks the user's respiratory health and medication intake; and Smart Contact Lens Platform, a non-invasive diabetes management system that lets users measure their blood glucose via a sensor embedded on a contact lens.

Here's Shiffer giving us a closer look at her invention:

James Dyson Award 2016 winner: EcoHelmet

Source: The James Dyson Foundation

View gallery - 11 images
6 comments
BartyLobethal
I suppose if the card were waxed it would be able to withstand light rain for a period. Although I suppose these are to be regarded as 'disposable', at a measly $5 a pop the expense mounts up over time.
LisaAnnLee
@BartyLobethal Actually the helmet does have a biodegradable coating that makes it water-resistant for up to three hours so yes, it would be able to withstand light rain.
Brian M
"water-resistant for up to three hours so yes, it would be able to withstand light rain."
Makes it virtually useless then, certainly in the UK! At $5 each will get expensive very quickly.
Commercially needs a redesign to use more durable materials - the folding bit is a good idea though - would buy that!
Bob Flint
Brilliant, airflow cooling and compact. For the rain worriers get a plastic bag or trendy shower cap....
AlexBotkin
A helmet vending machine near the bicycle rental kiosk! Perfect for vacation riders.
Riaanh
Very clever, and well done.
Regarding the negative remarks on the $5 fee - nobody is going to force you to fork it out. There is always a premium price to pay for convenience.