It is easily one of the most common problems of our generation: regardless of using an umbrella, when walking through rain or snow, our backpacks get soaked. Especially in a time when our ever-advancing laptops are among the most important items to keep on hand at all times, it's important that they aren't made any more vulnerable to the elements than they already are. Hence, we made the Backbrella.
What it does
Perfectly positioning the umbrella to cover all parts of your body while walking, AND your backpack is a challenge as old as time. Instead of relying on the user to hold a relatively small umbrella with an octogonal rainproof surface, the Backbrella slips into the water bottle pockets of every bag to wrap around the bag and over the user's head. This backpack-dependent design ensures that the user's head and shoulders are always covered. Since it wraps around the back of the backpack, it also covers its important contents. When the Backbrella's use is over, it can be folded backward 3 times and rolled up for easy portability like a normal umbrella.
How we built it
Using 12 aluminum tubes, we measured the desired height of the Backbrella from water bottle pocket to the users head (average distance between team members), and then angled every other aluminum tube from that point on to create the head covering. The aluminum tubes are connected by nuts and bolts and the angled parts are made with an angle connector with a bolt tightened onto a variable stopper. The design of the frame on either side builds inward on itself to ensure easy collapsibility when the Backbrella's use is over.
Challenges we ran into
Although we targeted this issue with a purely hardware solution, we did run into many challenges through the development of the product. One of the main challenges was trying to get all of our joints to stay firm in the frame. Another challenge was to attach the plastic (we used a garbage bag) in a way that both folds easily and covers all the necessary surface area. In addition, we had intended to 3D print our joints, having CAD'ed them up, however, we realized that the time to do this would've been way too long and we would've spent too much time not doing anything. Another challenge we faced was stabilizing the Backbrella in the water-bottle pockets
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Although it can seem "janky", we are proud of how we created our angular joints and made the Backbrella just as portable as a normal umbrella. In addition, the bags are attached in a way that makes folding easy.
What we learned
We learned that just because something is pure hardware, it is not easy to make. This device took us a long time, although it is relatively simple. In addition, umbrellas are way more advanced that we may have thought, and are wonderful devices that shouldn't be taken for granted.
What's next for Backbrella
Hopefully development as a more sophisticated, easy to accessible, and nicer looking product. Given our restraints, we are happy with the prototype, but feel it could be much nicer as well!