A PROTOTYPE pollen counter could alert severe asthma sufferers to unfolding dangers in real time, those vying for top design competition honours say.
Five secondary school students have won the regional final of the Thales and Bendigo Tech School Design competition.
The competition saw students work with engineers to design, test and market ideas to make the community safer.
The winning prototype detects pollen in the atmosphere and could be part of a wider network tracking issues for those with asthma.
Current alert systems can only predict the weather conditions that to high pollen counts, team leader and Bendigo South East College year 10 student Lilly Haley-Farr said.
"Ours would use the 'internet of things' to alert users when to take medication or avoid an area to prevent attacks," she said.
The 'internet of things' network is gradually being rolled out in Bendigo to help people collect data and is already used by members of the public to track temperature and rain variations across town.
Lilly's grandmother was a severe asthmatic and two members of the BSE team have the condition, which killed 441 deaths in 2017, the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show.
"That's what inspired us to focus on pollen. We want to stop other fatalities," Lilly said.
"It only takes a second or less for the data to be received."
Team member and year 10 student Alan Geisler said the team would like to work on personalising the device's sensitivity to meet individual people's needs.
"We see these being in peoples' front and back years as well as in more rural areas, out in the bush," he said.
Anything that helps people track pollen levels is welcome, Bendigo Community Health Services' director of primary health Graem Kelly said.
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Spring's spring grass and pollen season can create serious issues in Bendigo, especially during weather events associated with thunderstorm asthma, he said.
"Pollen gets swept up in wind and can travel long distances. Some of it bursts open into tiny particles that are concentrated in wind gusts that come just before thunder."
Mr Kelly urged anyone who might not be diagnosed with asthma, but are exhibiting symptoms, to contact their GP.
Common early signs of asthma include a wheezy breath that comes when people lay down, breathlessness, a tightness in the chest and an unexplained cough during exertion, he said.
The winning BSE students are now turning their attention to improvements suggested by competition judges ahead of state finals in November.
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