Sun-smart engineer puts UV alert up in lights

18 Oct 2017

More than 20,000 commuters per week will get a reminder to be sun smart with the arrival of a new UV index display developed by an engineering student at The University of Queensland.

James Cooney, 22, said he collaborated with Cancer Council Queensland to harness technology in the battle against Queensland’s soaring rates of skin cancer.

“I used the skills and knowledge gained throughout my electrical engineering degree to build a four-metre-high sign with a UV Index sensor that transmits data to a public online database via long-range wide area network technology,” he said.

The meter provides live information on the UV index at UQ’s bustling St Lucia campus, informing visitors of the sun exposure risk and encouraging sun-safe decisions.

“Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is an invisible killer that can’t be seen or felt,” Mr Cooney said.

“It can cause damage even on overcast or cool days, so providing the UQ community with an easy-to-understand and very obvious reminder about this quiet assassin is a valuable thing.”

UQ School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering Senior Lecturer Dr Alex Pudmenzky said UQ’s budding engineers and designers were learning how to integrate their technical skills into the business world, with more than 40 teams producing internet of things devices and installations such as Mr Cooney’s in 2017.

“By designing and building long-range wide area network internet of things devices and associated web-apps, students learn how this emerging technology can have a lasting impact in the community and gain skills critical to the job market of the future,” he said.

Cancer Council Queensland Cancer Prevention Manager Rebecca Perkins said the UV index sign would play a key role in educating people about the harmful effects of UV.

“Sun protection is required when the UV index is three and above, so this is a great way for students and staff to regularly check the UV index and act accordingly,” Ms Perkins said.

“In Queensland around 3600 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year and more than 343,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are treated.

“Prioritising sun safety is vital to reducing the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. We recommend all Queenslanders ‘slip, slop, slap’, and ‘seek and slide’ when outdoors.

“The UV index meter is a fantastic initiative and we hope other tertiary institutes will consider ways to educate students about sun safety.”

Dr Pudmenzky said the University planned to install more of Mr Cooney’s UV Index signs around campus, sharing the message with UQ’s 55,000 students and 7000 staff.


When: Thursday 19 October 2017, 9:15-9:45am.

What: Unveiling of a large, unique UV index sign that reports the UV index live and provides tips for how to be sun smart for that level of exposure.

Who: Student designer James Cooney, Supervising academic Dr Alex Pudmenzky, Cancer Council Queensland Manager, Cancer Prevention, Rebecca Perkins

Where: University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, UQ Lakes bus stop walkway

To arrange parking, or for more information: UQ EAIT Faculty, Genevieve Worrell,, +61 7 3365 8525, 0408 432 213; Cancer Council Queensland, Laura McKoy, 0409 001 171.