PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — When the wheels start turning in Isis Shiffer's head, an invention is soon to follow.
The 28-year-old who graduated in May with a master's degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute likes to fix problems. And that's what she did when she set out to solve how to make Citi Bike and other bike-sharing programs safer.
Her answer was a cheap and easy-to-make foldable bike helmet that can fit in a pocket.
The invention, which is made out of recyclable paper, just won the 2016 international James Dyson Award.
The award, which is funded by Sir James Dyson, the inventor of his eponymous vacuum, was announced Thursday. As the winner, Shiffer takes home a $45,000 prize and Pratt gets $7,500.
"I want people to have the confidence to ride. I want people to not feel nervous," Shiffer said of her helmet. "If it saves one person from serious injury, then it is a successful design."
Shiffer, who lives in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, said she has already partnered with a Los Angeles-based company to manufacture the helmets and has been in talks with Citi Bike to provide them at docking stations.
Citi Bike, like many bike-sharing programs in other cities, has exploded in popularity since its start, allowing riders to hop on and off its bicycles in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. But most Citi Bike riders don't bring along their own helmets.
"It seemed like this was a big gap that needed to be filled," Shiffer said of the safety concerns in helmet-less riding.
Shiffer said her helmets could easily fit in vending machines at Citi Bike stations and would either be free to riders or cost less than $5. The helmet is made of heavy-grade paper assembled in a honeycomb pattern. It comes folded up, but fans out when it's used and has the strength of a standard bike helmet.
Shiffer designed the helmet in 2015 while at Pratt. It was an invention dear to her. She owns two bikes, including one she built herself out of stainless steel that she calls "Gray Ghost."
"I'm much more comfortable on a couple of wheels than on my feet," she said.
She even comes up with inventions while riding in Prospect Park.
"I go around the loop in the park for hours to think about design problems," she said.