A 17-year-old girl from Western Sydney is gaining national recognition for creating a buoy to warn people when there are rips in the ocean, in a bid to save more lives.
Maddison King designed and built the device as a project for her year 12 Design and Technology class, after she saw children unable to detect a rip during exercises at a pool where she works as a life guard.
"I thought it was just going to be for my HSC," she said.
"But I've been entering it in things and people have been attracted to it and think it's such a good idea."
'Clever GIRL' wins young science award
The Clever GIRL buoy — for Global Intelligent Rip Locator — is designed to sit out in the surf and to light up and warn lifeguards and swimmers as soon as a rip is detected underneath.
Maddison explained a funnier side to the device's name.
"Because girls are cleverer than boys," she joked.
"So basically it's a buoy that sits in sea and when a rip goes underneath it tells people not to swim there because there's a rip."
Her project has seen her become a finalist in the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards.
Maddison has also won a Young Scientist Award, which will see her travel to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the United States in May.
She hopes to get funding for further development so it can be rolled out to beaches.
Buoy to remind people to swim between the flags
New South Wales Surf Life Saving Nippers Director Doug Hawkins said most people who swim outside of a flagged area just walk into the water because they want to get wet, without recognising the rips.
"What's obviously the most inviting part is the nice green calm bit which is deeper.
"But guess what? That's your rip, that's going to take you out to sea," he said.
Mr Hawkins also observed that people who swam between the flags sometimes still got caught in a rip because they weren't paying attention to their movement in the water and got carried outside the flagged area by the current.
"You're not going to be in the same place you were even a few seconds ago," he said.
"If you're going out of the flag area, chances are you're going into a rip."
Maddison said her Clever GIRL device is ideal for alerting those swimmers to the presence of rips and reminding them that they should be swimming inside the flags.
"The buoy should be outside the flags all along the beaches to warn people not to swim there," Maddison said.