Isis Shiffer, a graduate of the Pratt Institute of Design in New York City, has earned the 2016 James Dyson Award for her EcoHelmet, a folding, recyclable helmet for bike-share users.

EcoHelmet is made of waterproofed paper in a radial honeycomb configuration to protect the head from impact. It folds flat when not in use. A biodegradable coating makes it resistant to rain for up to three hours.

EcoHelmet folds flat when not in use. Image credit: Isis Shiffer/James Dyson FoundationEcoHelmet folds flat when not in use. Image credit: Isis Shiffer/James Dyson FoundationAccording to Shiffer, the cell structure of EcoHelmet distributes impact evenly around the head as effectively as a traditional polystyrene helmet. The radial nature of the cells is designed to protect the user from a blow coming from any direction.

“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,” says Shiffer. “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.”

The helmet's flat folded state makes it suitable for being dispensed via vending machines. It requires no assembly to put on: users simply place it in on their head, pull down the straps and clip it. The naturally stretchy material conforms to most head sizes.

With the $45,000 Dyson Award prize money, Shiffer is currently working to design tooling for mass production. Radial honeycomb does not currently exist, so custom machinery will be required to produce helmets in any quantity.

The simplicity of EcoHelmet’s construction, coupled with its inexpensive materials, should keep the manufacturing costs low, meaning it could be sold for $5 at bike-share stations, Shiffer says.

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