Lifesaving idea takes out 2023 Sydney Innovation Program

20 March 2023
University of Sydney students win the third edition of the ground breaking initiative.
A proposal to use automated decision-making to assist lifesavers, swimmers and surfers in their recognition of rip-currents, dangerous surf conditions and drowning incidents has seen a group of six students, win the third Sydney Innovation Program.
Students at SIP 23

Run as a partnership between the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making and Society (ADM+S) and the Sydney Law School, the Sydney Innovation Program 2023 brought together a diverse and interdisciplinary group of twenty high-performing students to innovate on some of society’s biggest problems in the topic areas of finance, justice, sustainability and healthcare sectors.

Following on from an outstanding presentation at the completion of the program, healthcare team Dugong were named as the winners for 2023.

Dugong is the brainchild of students Riana Shah (Engineering), Bill Chen (Arts/Law), Nishu Ajith (Law), Tom Cook (Engineering), Andreas Hopf (Science) and Muskan Jain (Business/Law).

Their winning idea comprised of a software and hardware solution which utilises computer vision to assist lifesavers, swimmers, and surfers in the identification of rip currents, hazardous conditions, and struggling swimmers.

PhD candidate and winner Andreas Hopf was full of praise for the experience of the Sydney Innovation Program (SIP).

"It excedeed all my expectations," Hopf said.

"SIP not only helped me forge strong connections with brilliant mentors and peers that pushed my ideas, but also introduced me to the entrepreneurial eco-system in which they can become a reality after the program."

Students listening to a presentation

Originally conceived in 2019 by Professor Simon Bronitt, the Head of School and Dean of Sydney Law School, and Dr David Martinez-Martin, Deputy-Director of Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis, the third edition of the program was also convened by Rebecca Lim, Dr Jose-Miguel Bello y Villarino, Dr Allan McCay and Dr Massimo Garbuio.

Structured as an extended "hackathon", participants lived together for a week on campus and were introduced to a range of theoretical and operational concepts to help them develop an idea, a plan, and themselves.

After the week-long residential stay, students had two weeks to refine their ideas before presenting them to a judging panel consisting of the Honourable Justice François Kunc of the Supreme Court of NSW, Helen Mayhew, Partner at QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey, Professor Flora Salim, Chief Investigator of ADM+S, and Professor Bronitt.

The Sydney Innovation Program is not just a program—it is an experience. … SIP has opened doors for me that I never thought was possible. With the connections I’ve made at SIP I have been able to go from a winning pitch idea to working alongside start-up accelerators and professionals to make this idea a reality.”
Riana Shah, SIP23 Winner
Sydney Innovation Program students

The Justice team pitched Rentease, a service to provide legal assistance to students in need of rental assistance: despite not winning, they still hope to leverage some of their new connections to pitch their idea as a supplement to an existing firm or legal centre.

The Finance team pitched a solution to mitigate the damage of scam-calls and the Sustainability team pitched a device to track water theft in rural New South Wales, which occurs, largely unmitigated, on a massive scale each year.

But after substantial deliberation, the judging panel named Dugong, as the winners of the Sydney Innovation Program for 2023.

Engineering student and program participant Kaustabh Barve was thankful for the chance to learn and grow during SIP.

"SIP was a great opportunity to interact with intelligent minds," Barve said.

"We were able to develop a solution to a problem from the perspective of different degrees and professionals in a variety of different fields.”

What comes next for the winners? Networking, working, and taking up their prize: a four-month residency and membership provided by Sydney Knowledge Hub.

To stay up to date with Dugong, keep your eye on the Law School Youtube Page, where they’ll be rerecording and posting their pitch in April.

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