Awards / Design

The Brooklynite creator of EcoHelmet won a $45,000 international prize

“To be recognized in a very engineering-heavy context is incredibly gratifying and exciting for me,” said Isis Shiffer.

EcoHelmet creator Isis Shiffer. (Photo via James Dyson Foundation)

This summer, we wrote about Pratt alum Isis Shiffer’s EcoHelmet: a folding helmet made out of paper that expands into an impact-absorbing honeycomb shape and is geared toward bike-share users.
Last week, Shiffer, who lives in Prospect-Lefferts Garden, won the international James Dyson Prize, sponsored by the namesake foundation of the British inventor, for her product. The $45,000 prize will go toward commercializing the EcoHelmet for the broader market. In other words, she may be able to hold off on a Kickstarter campaign for just a little while. (“It makes me jumpy,” she said about raising money the last time she spoke with us.)
The international James Dyson Prize is awarded through a competition among design and engineering students, as well as recent alumni in those fields, in 22 countries. The Dyson Foundation awards a smaller prize to national winners from each country. Those projects, plus a selected number of runner-ups, are then narrowed down to a list of 20 finalists, from which the winner is chosen. The winner’s school also receives a $7,500 prize — which means that this year, Pratt also shares in the spoils.
Two projects were named as runner-ups: a contact lens that can monitor glucose levels for diabetes patients from a team at the University of Waterloo in Canada and an inhaler and wearable patch system for asthma management designed by a student at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
The EcoHelmet has attracted some skepticism, which the Guardian addressed in a column about the helmet and its recent award. One pressing question: what happens to it on a rainy day? In its next phase of development, writer William Fotheringham reported, the helmet will be covered in recyclable or biodegradable film. It will also have an indicator to signal when it is no longer useful.
In a separate story, Shiffer spoke with the paper about her reaction to winning the prize.
“I am not an engineer so to be recognized in a very engineering-heavy context is incredibly gratifying and exciting for me,” she said.

Companies: Pratt Institute
Series: Brooklyn

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