Almost finally … Is it Yeah Nah or Nah Yeah?

Wednesday 11 Dec 2019

Forget wood for a minute, here’s a story about innovation and keeping people safe while swimming at the beach – now, that’s got to be of interest to all of us beachgoers as we approach the summer holiday period: Nah Yeah Buoy success for Victoria University of Wellington Design students - In Wellington, Victoria University School of Design students Hannah Tilsley and Chamonix Stuart have been awarded a place in the global 2019 James Dyson Award for a water safety system designed to prevent drownings due to rip currents.

The Nah Yeah Buoy can detect a rip and change colour, depending on the danger posed by the rip. The pair have used 3D printing and arduino technology to develop the buoy, and have beaten out over 1,000 designers from 27 countries to make it into the top 20.

All James Dyson Award entries must solve a problem. Chamonix says, “I looked into issues New Zealand faced, and discovered that people who are coming onto our island on holiday may not be aware of rips. I discovered that rips were the third highest cause of accidental death, and that 80 percent of all lifeguard rescues are related to rips.”

A number of the LED light-bearing buoys are placed in a grid system in the water and work by radio frequency, collecting waterflow 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. Hannah says, “When you see the grid-like system and the lights, it teaches people what the water currents look like.

“If you are standing on the beach and thinking ‘Why is that area red, and why is that area green? What is the difference between the areas?’, with a sign explaining the system, that is combining education with prevention of drownings.”

For every problem, there are many solutions, and Chamonix came up with six concepts, before narrowing the design down to a buoy. “You see buoys all the time in the water, so they aren’t distracting people from the beauty of the beach,” Hannah says.

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. They created their electronics at the same time, and then began testing. “We tested a lot of sensors to see what the right one was. We ultimately went with a water flow sensor, because neither the flex sensor nor the pressure sensor were waterproof,” Hannah says.

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

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