Victoria University of Wellington Design students Hannah Tilsley and Chamonix Stuart were recently named runners-up in the 2019 New Zealand James Dyson Award for their work on a water safety buoys. These buoy-lights, known as “Nah Yeah Buoys,” measure the water current flowing through a sensor on the bottom of the unit, then light up accordingly using an Arduino for control. The lights go from green for slow water speed and safe to swim, to yellow for caution, to red to indicate that one shouldn't swim nearby.
In addition to the visual indication, each buoy features a wireless transmitter that can alert lifeguards to danger via an app. Two-way communication allows lifeguards to change the buoy colors during emergencies and dangerous events like a shark sighting to help people to quickly know when to get out the water.
Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental deaths in New Zealand, and a staggering 80 percent of lifeguard interventions are due to rip currents. The device could therefore have a very positive impact, especially for those not familiar with a particular beach. Beyond immediate safety, being able to observe the rip currents through an array of lights like this could also be an interesting learning experience.