Building a Better Helmet

Bill Weir, C. Michael Kim, David Miller & Matthew Drake
This Could Be Big

"There are many things you can point to as proof that the human is not smart, but my personal favorite would have to be that we needed to invent the helmet. What was happening, apparently, was that we were involved in a lot of activities that were cracking our heads. We chose not to avoid doing those activities but, instead, to come up with some sort of device to help us enjoy our head-cracking lifestyles." — Jerry Seinfeld

Fortunately for us, Allison Yost and MIT's Aero/Astro Department are coming up with new and innovative ways to protect our heads. Whether it's from the impact of a linebacker in football or the blast from a bomb on a soldier at war, head injuries are a serious issue and MIT is working hard to come up with a smarter helmet.

The problem with helmets these days is that most are made of foam, and when a foam helmet makes impact the cushioning permanently deforms causing a blunt, localized hit to the persons head. To fix that, MIT is developing helmets lined with fluid channels, within some foam, to distribute the pressure from a blow and reduce traumatic brain injury and concussions.

We went to MIT to check this out and met with Allison at the Aero/Astro lab where she performed a helmet drop test, literally dropping helmets from a pulley system to test this new fluid channel technology against a standard helmet. This technology is being created first for the military, then football players and other athletes, but eventually you'll see it in bike helmets, ski helmets and other recreational helmets where we'll be safer than ever from our head-cracking lifestyles.