Uma Smith with Cocoon

During a seizure, an epileptic needs a safe space, but that’s not always available when an episode can happen anywhere and anytime. Uma Smith, BID ‘19, made a portable product that instantly creates that space. Called Cocoon, the innovative design was recently announced as the US national winner of the 2019 James Dyson Award. Smith's design was also included in the top 20 shortlist of finalists from around the world.

“My personal experiences with having seizures in potentially dangerous locations inspired this project,” Smith said in a release. “Everyone should be able to live an independent life, without fear. I am honored to be the national winner of the James Dyson Award, and truly inspired to make Cocoon a reality.”

The James Dyson Foundation, which organizes the annual international student design award, released a video filmed on the Pratt Institute Brooklyn campus in which Smith discusses and demonstrates her prototype. There are many existing products for epileptics, such as seizure detectors and headgear, yet carrying both objects is cumbersome. Cocoon combines alerting tools and protection while also creating a safe space.

Popping up in seconds so that an epileptic can deploy it when they sense the onset of a seizure, Cocoon has a contoured cushion to protect the user’s head while lying on their side. Magnetic sensors detect when Cocoon is activated and GPS coordinates are sent to pre-designated caretakers. An accelerometer monitors convulsions and a cell-connected chip calls an ambulance if the seizure extends beyond five minutes (pressure sensors monitor when the device is removed). On either side of the cushion, there are text and graphic first-aid instructions to empower bystanders to become temporary caretakers. When not in use, Cocoon rolls into a pouch that doubles as a pill case.

Smith’s design advanced to the international round of the competition along with the two runners-up. This included Strike-Plate Covering designed by fellow Pratt graduate Alice Hixon Kirk, MID ‘19. The mechanism covers door strike-plates to reduce the sound of closing doors.

Image: Uma Smith with Cocoon (courtesy James Dyson Award)

This post was updated on November 14, 2019.