Year 12 student, Isaac Heagney, from St Columba Anglican School (SCAS), has won the national title of “Rural Young Scientist” for an invention that could help save the lives of rock fishermen that are swept into the water. The award was presented at the finals of the STANSW Young Scientist Awards, held at the University of Wollongong on Wednesday 31st October.

Isaac’s invention is an emergency alert for rock fishermen. “If a fisherman falls into the water it sends a text message to a nominated mobile number with their GPS coordinates. I undertook the project in my HSC Design and Technology class and used a lot of science and technology principles to solve the problem I identified.” Isaac explained.

For his prototype, Isaac won $2100 in prize money and an all-expenses paid trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Arizona in the USA, held in May 2019. As an ISEF Finalist, he will have the chance to showcase his invention to thousands of delegates at the fair.

The win came as a surprise to Isaac, who had submitted his online entry earlier in the year with little anticipation of a win.

“I love rock fishing,” Issac said. “I fish every chance I get, mostly chasing mulloway off the rocks. But rock fishing can be a dangerous sport and my family worry if I go alone. So I thought, I can do something about that.”

The invention works by sending a wifi signal between a transmitter on the fisherman’s belt and a receiver in their fishing bag. If a fisherman falls into the water the wifi signal (which can’t travel through water) is interrupted and an alert is sent from the device in their fishing bag. It sends the GPS coordinates of the fisherman to a nominated mobile number to alert rescuers.

Isaac created the device with “breadboard circuitry”, using wireless connectivity and “Arduino coding”. Those technical details would not make sense to most people, but the potential of Isaac’s device impressed the competition judges so much that he was awarded an additional prize with an equal first place for Most Promising Design.

Now nearing the end of his HSC, Isaac has always had his sights set on a career in carpentry, but this win might give him cause to rethink his options.

“A Professor at the Science and Engineering awards asked me what I was going to do after Year 12 and when I told him carpentry he just laughed!” Issac said.

Director of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) at SCAS, Mr Daniel Zavone, says the “win is an extraordinary achievement. It’s great to see a student simply pursue something they have a passion for and turn it into an amazing design idea.”

“ISEF is the biggest science and engineering expo in the world for pre-college graduates and it has over $4 million in prizes to give away,” Mr Zavone said.

“1500 students worldwide have been selected to attend, including seven from Australia. Isaac is one of the seven. It’s a big deal and we’re extremely proud of him.”