Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Whitewater Death Inspires Students To Create Safer Helmet

Date:
May 17, 2002
Source:
Johns Hopkins University
Summary:
With support from a grieving father and injury prevention researchers, two Johns Hopkins engineering students have designed and fabricated a new whitewater recreation helmet to better protect rafters and kayakers from life-threatening head injuries. The prototype and specifications will be patented by a nonprofit foundation that plans to mass-produce and sell the headgear at cost.

With support from a grieving father and injury prevention researchers, two Johns Hopkins engineering students have designed and fabricated a new whitewater recreation helmet to better protect rafters and kayakers from life-threatening head injuries. The prototype and specifications will be patented by a nonprofit foundation that plans to mass-produce and sell the headgear at cost. Injury prevention experts also hope the project will bolster efforts to adopt stronger safety standards for whitewater helmets, similar to those in place for bicycle helmets and other sports gear.

The issue was brought to the attention of Johns Hopkins by Gil Turner, a Park City, Utah, resident whose 22-year-old son, Lucas Brandon Turner, died in 1998 while kayaking on the Payette River in Idaho. “He was an expert whitewater kayaker, but somehow he was thrown into the river,” Turner said. “The force of the water pushed him head-first into a large boulder. He would have survived if his helmet had stayed in place, but it slipped backward and exposed his forehead. He sustained a fatal blow to the center of his forehead.” The incident led Turner, a retired businessman, to found the Whitewater Research and Safety Institute, which co-funded the safer helmet development project with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The job of designing and fabricating the whitewater helmet was handed to two seniors enrolled in the Department of Mechanical Engineering's Senior Design Project course: Michael Cordeiro, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering major from Easton, Md., and Chang Lee, 22, of Atlanta, who was completing a dual major in biomedical engineering and engineering mechanics.

The undergraduates were asked to study head injuries that occurred in whitewater sports and to design a helmet that would better absorb shocks and prevent injuries. The helmet had to be lightweight (less than 30 ounces), buoyant in water and durable enough to survive repeated collisions with hard objects. It required straps that would hold the helmet in place even in fast-moving water. It had to cost less than $30 per helmet to manufacture and be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing enough to appeal to whitewater enthusiasts.

The year-long project concluded this month when Cordeiro and Lee unveiled a prototype helmet and subjected it to several tests designed to replicate whitewater conditions. The undergraduates attached the helmet to a dummy head, marked its position, then blasted it with a high-pressure fire hose that unleashed water moving at about 30 mph. The straps held the helmet firmly in place, indicating it should continue to protect a wearer’s head, even in a fast-moving river. The students also assembled an impact-test apparatus to mimic a high-speed collision between the helmet and a rock. Their test indicated the prototype helmet should absorb enough energy to prevent a serious head injury.

Much of the helmet’s protective power comes from three layers of EVA foam installed inside the shell. Each layer consists of a different density of closed-cell material, which will not absorb water if the wearer falls into a stream. The shell is made of rugged ABS plastic. Plastic head coverings are usually produced through an expensive molding process. But Cordeiro and Lee dramatically reduced the cost of their prototype helmet by using a high-tech rapid prototyping machine, which applies the plastic in a computer-guided shape through a process that resembles three-dimensional ink-jet printing. Ultimately, they spent only $5,400 to design, fabricate and test their prototype helmet.

“It was really rewarding to see it come together,” said Lee. “We got what we were looking for, what we were designing for.” Added Cordeiro: “This was a research project where we actually got to see something important come out of it – a product that could save people’s lives.”

Currently no industry nor government safety standards exist for whitewater helmets in the United States, said Michael Ho, a Center for Injury Research and Policy staff member who monitored the students’ efforts. “Our center co-sponsored this project because we wanted to show that it is possible to design and construct a helmet for whitewater use that adhered to standards that we asked the students to develop through their research,” Ho said. “The statistics related to whitewater injuries are unreliable, but we do know that among the fatal cases, the mechanism of death tends to be a combination of impact to the head and drowning. The whitewater industry and the people who enjoy these sports need to begin talking about standards for a helmet that could do a better job of preventing such injuries.”

The safer whitewater helmet was one of 11 Johns Hopkins projects completed this year by undergraduates in the Senior Design Project course. The class is taught by Andrew F. Conn, a Johns Hopkins graduate with more than 30 years of experience in public and private research and development. Each team of two or three students, working within budgets of up to $10,000, had to design a device, purchase or fabricate the parts, and assemble the final product. Corporations, government agencies and nonprofit groups provided the assignments and funding. The course is traditionally a well-received hands-on engineering experience for Johns Hopkins undergraduates.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University. "Whitewater Death Inspires Students To Create Safer Helmet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020516081559.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University. (2002, May 17). Whitewater Death Inspires Students To Create Safer Helmet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020516081559.htm
Johns Hopkins University. "Whitewater Death Inspires Students To Create Safer Helmet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020516081559.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins