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Water safety system to prevent drowning caused by rip currents

Photo Credit: The James Dyson Award

Students from the School of Design at New Zealand’s Victoria University Wellington have been named runners-up in the prestigious 2019 New Zealand James Dyson Award for a water safety system designed to prevent drownings due to rip currents.

According to a recent press release, the Nah Yeah Buoy can detect a rip and change colour, depending on the danger posed by the rip. 3D printing and Arduino technology were used to develop the buoy.

The water safety system

It is an adaptive system for water safety designed to identify rip currents near beaches, visualise their locations and movements, and provide interactive alerts and warnings for lifeguards and water users.

All the entries for the Awards must solve a problem. The students looked into issues that New Zealand faced and learned that people who come for a holiday may not be aware of rips.

Rips, apparently, were the third highest cause of accidental death. In addition, 80% of all lifeguard rescues are related to rips.

The Nah Yeah Buoy app allows lifeguards to change the buoys for emergencies, such as a shark sighting, in order to allow a quick response from beach-goers.

A number of the LED light-bearing buoys are placed in a grid system in the water and work by radio frequency, collecting water flow data and relaying it back to an app used by lifeguards.

The colours are inspired by traffic lights: green means go; orange means caution; red means avoid the area. The grid-like system and the lights teach the people what the water currents look like.

A sign that explains the system provides a combination of education with prevention of drowning.

Background of the project

For every problem, there are many solutions. Six concepts were produced before narrowing down the design to a buoy.

Buoys are always seen in the water and will therefore not distract people from the beauty of the beach.

Once their design was final, the form of the buoy came together in two weeks, and they started 3D printing as soon as it was confirmed.

The electronics was created at the same time and then testing began after. Several sensors were tested to reduce the number of choices and find the right one.

The pair ultimately went with a water flow sensor because of its being waterproof. The other two choices, the flex sensor and the pressure sensor, were not.

The students will be representing New Zealand at the international James Dyson Award along with three others from New Zealand as well as finalists from 27 other countries.

They do not have funding yet to carry on their research. However, winning the worldwide competition may just be the answer.

Runners-up will be receiving $9,000. The winner of the entire competition, meanwhile, will receive $55,000, plus $9,000 for their university.

Both students are in their final year of study and would like to develop the buoy further, given time and resource.


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