Early warning system designers score top gong

Posted: 9am 23 Dec 2021

The winners of the Moreton Bay Region’s Youth Innovation Excellence award had plenty to celebrate on the night of the awards at the Eatons Hill Hotel.

Murrumba State Secondary College students Tiarna McElligott and Owen Ventre had just finished dinner and mock awards at their Year 12 formal when Dean of Year 12 Nic Gault announced word had come through that they had won a very real award at the Moreton Bay Region Business Excellence and Innovation Awards.

Unable to attend both events, Tiarna and Owen chose their Year 12 formal, sending teacher Rhiann Nelson to the gala business awards event at the Eatons Hill Hotel.

The pair say they were stunned to win, having claimed the same category in 2019 with their invention, IntelVest, which measures firefighters’ physical distress on the job.

“When we looked at Tiarna’s 2019 application and what we had done (since Owen joined Tiarna to work on the project last year), the 2021 nomination showed how far we had come,” Owen says.

Practical evolution

Tiarna says the evolution came after consultation with firefighters about their needs.

“The initial idea was to monitor the dangerous gases in the air around firefighters, but after talking to them we found that exertion was a bigger problem,” she says.

Owen says being able to identify a firefighter suffering early signs of exertion is crucial, because if they collapse in a fire scene colleagues will be diverted from the fire to rescue them instead.

“It lessens the strain on other emergency services as well,” Owen says.

When a firefighter is suffering from exertion, IntelVest alerts crew outside the fire, who can direct the affected firefighter to return outside where they can receive early treatment and likely return to duty.

Seamless integration

“We’ve talked to people in the medical industry and they we need an eight to 10 minute warning of exertion before someone suffers a heart attack,” Tiarna says.

“But this is not a medical device, it’s an early warning system.”

The next iteration of IntelVest was as an addition to firefighters’ masks.

“Now it’s an addition to the back of the neck of their suits that sends a report out of the fire scene,” Tiarna says.

“It works in seamlessly with everything they have already got.”

That’s important, because replacing existing equipment is costly and Owen says feedback from firefighters found incorporating new devices into existing processes was preferable.

IntelVest was patented this year and Tiarna and Owen, who hope to study science and law respectively, will start working on prototypes.

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