Inside the Story: BYU engineers build one-of-a-kind bulletproof shield

Inside the Story: BYU engineers build one of a kind bulletproof shield (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Cutting, taping, and folding to make origami objects is not something you'd expect to find in a university engineering lab, but that's exactly what's happening at Brigham Young University.

Engineering students are using the ancient paper-folding technique to create a one-of-a-kind bulletproof shield built to protect officers from speeding bullets.

BYU engineering professor Terri Bateman, and her students, are some of those behind the making of this shield. They call it a foldable origami-base ballistic barrier.

The idea came about last summer as they were thinking of products that could be produced from origami folding.

"Engineers, if they can think of a new way to fold something up, that can be really, really useful," Bateman said.

One train of thought led them to brainstorming ways to better protect law enforcement.

There are bulletproof vests, but what about a bulletproof shield? They imagined one that is small enough to fit in the back of a squad car and light enough to be set up by an officer in seconds.

"You don't have time for something to deploy. You've got to be able to have it go right away," Bateman said.

The shield weighs 55 pounds. It's designed to protect three people and it can stop a speeding bullet from most hand guns.

The other challenge faced in designing this was the hardware behind the shield.

"With a fold-able barrier, there has to be hinges of some sort, so how are we going to make it so there aren't weaknesses, even where there are hinges?" explained Erica Crampton, one of the students who worked on the design.

The finished product is built out of 12 layers of Kevlar.

The most intense and nerve-wracking part of the process was when it was time to put the shield to the test with the help of law enforcement.

No one was quite sure what to expect.

"I was just nervous that it was going to fall over that it was going to fly away or something like that, and it didn't. It stood really well, it absorbed the bullets," Bateman said.

The bullet marks can still be seen on the outside, but they didn't penetrate. Not bad for starting with a cute piece of paper artwork. Now it's stopping bullets.

Alex Avila also helped with the design and construction process.

She explained, "It starts out as an idea, but when you actually see it stop a bullet-that's what is rewarding."

Professor Bateman says the shield passed the test of a 9mm, a .357 and .44 magnum handgun.

Right now, they are in the process of working with two commercial businesses that have an interest in taking it to the streets for officers.