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Smart Helmet Display: a trip computer for a motorcycle helmet

What motorbikes lack, thought 18-year-old Johannes Lodahl, is the kind of trip computer that is standard in cars. So without further ado he set about developing a system of his own. With the support of thyssenkrupp, he created the “Smart Helmet Display” – a trip computer for motorcycle helmets. An interesting project – and a great example of how companies can attract and retain young talent.

 

From a young age, Johannes Lodahl loved tinkering with mopeds, making them look better and go faster. His father, a self-employed master organ builder, taught him some basic electronics. These days, two-wheeled vehicles come with more and more electronics as well. But as a gen Z digital native, Johannes was frustrated by the lack of a trip computer and the ability to connect a smartphone, so he decided to do something about it.

As an active rider himself, Johannes was well aware of the biggest problem: a trip computer in the motorcycle dashboard would distract the rider too much. But something ought to be possible with the helmet, he thought. The high school student quickly developed the idea of a “Smart Helmet Display” (SHD). Similar to a head-up display, the system would provide the rider with useful information without distracting attention from the road.

Support from Ilsenburg powertrain component plant

Johannes had the idea of a conversion kit that could be fitted to a standard full-face helmet. To develop the idea further and produce the first prototypes, he sought support from industry. In March 2020, Johannes presented his SHD concept to thyssenkrupp's valvetrain specialists in Ilsenburg. They were impressed by the idea and by Johannes’ commitment and didn’t take long to respond. “Johannes piqued our interest right from his first project presentation, so we started thinking about how we could tie a young talent like Johannes to the company,” says Nils Schöne, Communications Specialist at thyssenkrupp in Ilsenburg.

The answer they came up with was to provide Johannes with support from experts in engineering, 3D printing of prototypes, and design development. Regular feedback from thyssenkrupp staff helped Johannes make continuous progress on the project. And along the way he also got to know the company, different departments and various contacts.

Over the weeks and months, the young tinkerer tossed out many ideas and came up with new ones. Various prototypes were built until finally he created a setup in which the compact microcontroller Arduino Nano acts as a computing unit for processing and forwarding the input signals. A cheap Real Time Clock module and a simple temperature sensor supply standard time and temperature data. “However, the ATmega328 microprocessor is not powerful enough for more extensive tasks,” Johannes says. “That’s why the smartphone is important, in that it can use various apps.”

Johannes’ system, for example, can integrate the Racechrono app – a lap timer popular among hobby racers that can be expanded to include numerous sensor functions. “The traffic app is connected to the online map service Mapbox via an API interface,” Johannes explains. “This provides information such as speed, position, navigation instructions and traffic conditions.”

The information is displayed on an OLED display in the area of the forehead bar, with the greatest possible distance between the rider’s eye and the display. “For good readability, there is a mirror in the chin area of the helmet with an adjustable mount,” Johannes says. “Figuring out a way to mirror the data into the helmet was actually the biggest challenge,” Johannes reveals. For this, the youngster designed a 3D-printed apparatus with a mirror coating, doing without glass components for safety reasons.

Great success in “Jugend forscht”

Convinced of his system, Johannes entered the national young scientists competition “Jugend forscht”. His months of work paid off twice over: Out of 113 projects, Johannes’ SHD made it into the top 10. And because he had made such a lasting impression on the people at thyssenkrupp in Ilsenburg, an integrated mechanical engineering degree program awaited him after finishing high school. “Alongside his studies Johannes is training to become a mechatronics technician with us here in Ilsenburg,” says Nils Schöne.

Ilsenburg is proud to have secured the promising young talent. “Naturally Johannes’ project also attracted the interest of other big companies,” Nils Schöne says. “But he chose us because of the support he received from our staff and the subject of the degree program. He was also convinced by our modern training workshop, with state-of-the-art equipment meeting Industry 4.0 standards.”

And what’s next for the SHD? In the meantime, Johannes has further developed his idea, revising the design concept. The housing now better matches the design of full-face helmets. In addition, battery life has been extended to 6-8 hours. Although Johannes would like to develop his system to market readiness, his greatest wish is for other tech-savvy people to be able to build his Smart Helmet Display. For Johannes it’s not about making money. Instead he will be making all his project documents for building the SHD and programming the app available online.