Students’ water use device wins three national awards


Shaun Hayward and Andrew Groth

An innovative device created by four USC Engineering Honours students to give householders more control over their water use has won three national GovHack awards.

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering Dr Helen Fairweather said it was extraordinary for one USC student project to win three major national sponsored awards at the largest open data “hackathon” in the Southern Hemisphere.

Finalist teams from universities and communities across Australia recently competed in the two-day annual event, which showcased open government data as a way of finding and solving social, economic and environmental challenges.

USC Civil Engineering Honours student Shaun Hayward, 28, said the idea came from the team’s passion for climate change adaptation in relation to water resources.

“We wanted something that would help communities adapt to the influences of climate change and make our resources go a bit further,” said the Currimundi resident.

Their idea was a tablet device, requiring no interaction from the resident, that monitored and displayed daily and weekly household water use, compared this usage with averages, and offered tips on related information such as predicted rainfall and dam levels. 

Results would be analysed and emailed weekly to the resident.

“It’s the perfect solution for anyone who’s ever left tap water running while cleaning their teeth, or washed the car the day before it rained,” he said.

The project involved developing hardware and software, collating data, videography and website design, and project direction, script and narration.

Shaun and Dr Fairweather attended the GovHack International Red Carpet Awards in Canberra earlier this month, also representing USC student team members Jonard Erro, 21, of Minyama; Jarred Cooper, 23, of Buderim; and Jordan McKenzie, 25, of Mooloolah Valley.

They won the Infosys (major sponsor) award for optimising energy and water resource planning, the Queensland Government waterwise award, and the Water Industry Partnership: Water – from source to tap award (sponsored by Central Highlands Water).

“It was excellent to hear our team announced for the first award, then the other two awards were very surprising,” said Shaun, who intends to work in the water engineering industry after graduating.

The device was being developed as part of his Honours degree, with Dr Fairweather as principal supervisor.

A video of the project is on YouTube and a full project description is on Hackerspace.

The regional GovHack event was held at USC and sponsored by Sunshine Coast Council, RDA Sunshine Coast, USC, Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast and ui! the urban institute.

It was the fifth year that the Sunshine Coast event resulted in significant wins on a national stage.

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