Meet Tiarna McElligott, the student-CEO who’s saving firefighters with wearable tech
Tiarna had her eureka moment during a visit to a fire station on her 15th birthday. The biggest threat to firefighters, she learnt, was not smoke inhalation or burns, but overexertion and stress. Shocked to discover there was no real-time system to monitor this risk, Tiarna put her high school STEM smarts to use and invented IntelVest to safeguard our heroes. Since rebranded to Oxersense, Tiarna’s brainchild is a sleek, sensor-packed gadget that tucks into firefighters’ gear. It tracks both health vitals and environmental info, and communicates it back to an outside team that can act fast if it looks like the firefighter is in danger.
“It’s incredible to think that the technology we are developing at Oxersense can potentially save lives by protecting those who protect us,” Tiarna says. “Building this company from its inception and seeing it grow into a tool for safety is both rewarding and exciting.”
Balancing uni with saving lives
After school, Tiarna enrolled in a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) at The University of Queensland, majoring in genetics and biochemistry. “I wanted to pursue my interests in the building blocks of life,” she says.
Balancing uni and Oxersense is challenging, but Tiarna’s all-in. Her days are filled with lectures and lab work, as well as meeting with firefighters and pitching for funding.
Her groundbreaking work has been recognised with several STEM awards. Oxersense also won a spot in the UQ Ventures ilab Accelerator program, which will help launch her invention into the real world.
Away from academia and startups, Tiarna likes to kick back with 3D art and is obsessed with Blender, a 3D software she discovered during a uni assignment. “The creativity and technical precision involved in 3D modelling is a fantastic counterbalance to my studies and business management duties,” she says.
With a strong entrepreneurial streak and a promising future in genetics and biology, Tiarna’s excited about where her studies might lead. “The future of medicine lies in our genetic code, and we’re just beginning to unlock its potential,” she says.
Her advice to other teens? Stay curious, embrace failures and grab every opportunity. “You never know where it could lead.”
Tiana’s STEM study and career path
- Founder and CEO, Oxersense
- Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours), The University of Queensland
This profile first appeared in Careers with STEM: Technology 2023.
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma is an author and editor and past Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.