Philippe Videau held a single flexible strip of connected triangular pieces in his hands. Seconds ago, the product was an entire bike helmet with an organic frame made of mycelium, a structure found in mushrooms.
Videau, a fifth-year aerospace engineering student, said he and fellow project members wanted to create a lighter, less bulky bike helmet after discovering biking was a common interest.
The bike helmet’s framework is made of mycelium – fiber found in mushrooms and other fungi that can mold to customized head shapes. Mycelium is a natural, biodegradable material unlike polystyrene, a compound found in everyday helmets.
“We thought as long as we’re making the helmet foldable, lighter and custom-fit, why not explore the sustainable and biodegradable aspect?” Videau said.
Videau helped design and create a prototype of the helmet over the summer as part of his Applied Innovation Internship with Autodesk, a 3-D design, engineering and entertainment software company. This collaborative internship was created to bridge the gap between design and engineering, using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 – a 3-D design and manufacturing software that integrates product design with product manufacturing.
Videau learned to use 3-D printing and laser cutters during the internship, which allowed the team to build several prototypes of the helmet by the end of summer. Computer programs determined the optimal design using a repeated pattern of triangular pieces for the helmet, Videau said.
He added he thinks it was rare the internship allowed him the freedom to fully design and manufacture the product.
“Although the biggest goal of the project was to test the software, the biggest return was actually going through the entire process,” he said.
Erin Bradner, a research scientist at Autodesk for more than 13 years, said Videau has many of the qualities innovative companies look for in engineers.
“As an engineer you need to be able to collaborate with diverse teams and have a real, healthy sense of curiosity,” she said. “And after this internship, (Videau) now has skills in generative design.”
Professor Laurent Pilon, Videau’s faculty adviser and mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, recognizes Videau’s passion for innovative technology.
“He’s ambitious and wants to use his engineering skills to solve the societal problems of our time,” Pilon said.
Videau said his experience made him realize how UCLA can improve its engineering program.
“I think we could do more in terms of hands-on aspects,” Videau said. “We are heavy on theory but don’t do enough as far as fabrication.”
Videau is now applying for postgraduate jobs and plans to apply to graduate school programs. He said the internship experience sparked his interest in biomimicry.
“I’d love to look at biological systems and (incorporate) that into engineering,” he said.