Rupert Cain, BSc (Hons) Product Design, fold-up helmetFor most students, having a crash on the way to university would be a reason to take a day off to recover, but for Rupert it proved to be the basis of his final project
“I had a couple of crashes actually,” says Rupert. “I credit my helmet with saving me, but looking around I still see lots of people riding without one. Making helmets compulsory is not something I’m in favour of, but it got me thinking that the best way to encourage people to stop taking the risk would be to design something truly portable.”
Final year project
With that in mind, Rupert set to work designing a helmet that could be folded flat, making it easier for people to carry around with them when not in use. “I decided to make it for my final year project,” he explains. “I began by focusing on a design that could be folded down.”
This was achieved by constructing a shell from a number of separate plates that Rupert linked using cords made from Dyneema – a polyethylene with a better strength-to-weight ratio than cable steel. “It was connected to a ratchet at the back,” he explains. “Tighten the ratchet and the shell comes together in a helmet shape; pop it open and the whole thing folds down and can be slipped into a bag.”
However, Rupert's ingenuity did not end there. “Most helmets are lined with expanded polystyrene,” says Rupert, “which is great at dissipating energy in a high-speed impact. However, most urban impacts happen at low to moderate speed – in which case a hard lining can actually increase the risk of concussion.”
Rupert’s solution was an inflatable liner that can be pumped up before use with a bicycle pump – a simple bit of kit that all cyclists will have with them anyway – the kind of inventive approach to problem-solving that our BSc (Hons) Product Design graduates are synonymous with.
For now, however, Rupert’s project is on hold while he concentrates on finding full-time work. “The next step would be to find an investor, or perhaps look at crowdfunding,” he says. “For now, however, I’m keen to get some experience under my belt before revisiting my idea with the skills I need to take it to the next level.”
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