Cheap, foldable bicycle helmet wins international James Dyson Award

17 Nov 2016

Isis Shiffer with James Dyson, following her award win. Image: James Dyson Award

For her foldable, recyclable bicycle helmet, New York-based graduate Isis Shiffer has been named the international winner of the James Dyson Award 2016.

The James Dyson Award has become a staple of the STEM calendar, highlighting some of the most creative and useful inventions over the past year. 2016 was Isis Shiffer’s year.

As a recent graduate from the Pratt Institute of Design in New York City, Shiffer set out to address the problem faced by bike-share programmes around the world, like the Dublinbikes one in Ireland.

Cheap to produce

While more and more people are signing up to such schemes, the fact that the vast majority do not offer safety equipment like helmets raises serious concerns.

That is why Shiffer developed a device called the EcoHelmet, which uses a unique honeycomb configuration to protect the head from impact, and folds flat when not in use.

This design distributes any impact evenly around the head as effectively as a traditional polystyrene helmet and due to the radial nature of the cells, it will protect the user from a blow coming from any direction.

The EcoHelmet is also covered in a biodegradable coating, making it resistant to rain for up to three hours.

Due to its use of inexpensive materials, Shiffer expects that she will be able to sell them for around $5 per helmet.

Speaking of her design, she said: “I was lucky enough to be studying at Royal College of Art and the Imperial College of London for a semester, and was granted access to Imperial’s crash lab.”

Runners-up also revealed

According to Shiffer, “They had a European standard helmet crash set-up that allowed me to gather enough data on EcoHelmet’s proprietary honeycomb configuration, to know it was viable and worth developing.”

James Dyson himself also spoke after the announcement saying: “EcoHelmet solves an obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way.

“But its simplicity belies an impressive amount of research and development. I look forward to seeing EcoHelmets used in bike shares across the world.”

Two runners-up for the award were also revealed, including nanotechnology engineer Huayi Gao, who developed a smart contact lens with a sensor that can continuously monitor its user’s glucose levels.

The second runner-up was Katherine Kawecki, who developed Respia, an asthma management system that tracks and records the user’s respiratory health and medication use.

Unfortunately missing out on the final three was the Hydro-FLOcean (H-FLO) from Cork Institute of Technology, which prevents accidental drownings among work crews.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic