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Foldable cardboard bike helmet is as effective as a polystyrene one

A foldable, recyclable bike helmet has been announced as the international winner of the 2016 James Dyson Award, an annual globe-spanning design competition which rewards innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The so-called EcoHelmet was created by Isis Shiffer, a recent graduate from the Pratt Institute of Design in Brooklyn. In claiming the prize, she beats several impressive runners-up — including a smart wearable asthma management system and glucose-monitoring contact lenses.

“I imagined this as a bike helmet specifically for bike sharing programs,” Schiffer told Digital Trends. “If it’s raining in the morning and then nice in the afternoon, and you decide to cycle home as a result, you may not have a helmet with you — and it’s not advisable to ride without one. My original idea was to make a helmet that could fold up really small. That then evolved into a helmet that not only could fold up really small, but would also be completely recyclable and low-cost.”

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To give it the kind of protection any bicycle helmet needs, EcoHelmet utilizes a unique honeycomb pattern which shields the head from impact. Its radial cell structure distributes any impact forces evenly around the head of the wearer as effectively as a traditional polystyrene helmet — despite being made out of nothing more fearsome than heavy card stock.

(Although thanks to a biodegradable coating it can stay rain resistant for up to three hours, which should cover even the longest of commutes.)

In all, it certainly impressed James Dyson, the British inventor perhaps best described as the Tony Stark of vacuum cleaners.

“EcoHelmet solves an obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way,” Dyson said in a stament. “But its simplicity belies an impressive amount of research and development. I look forward to seeing EcoHelmets used in bike shares across the world.”

Schiffer herself said that was still reeling from the James Dyson Award win. “It’s the design award if you’re a student,” she continued. “Everyone wants it. I was massively honored, and really surprised actually, to win. It’s really validating because I come from a fine art background rather than an engineering one.”

As part of the prize, she will receive $45,000 to further commercialize the product — with her hope being to one day sell the helmets at bike share stations for just $5 per unit.