She may have only just finished Year 12, but Macinley Butson already has a long list of inventions that might put a seasoned scientist to shame. From a special medical syringe to a solar powered water filtering system, Macinley is full of big ideas.

Her greatest yet – a shield that she calls ‘Smart Armour’, which protects women from radiation during breast cancer treatment – saw her win the 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year Award. She came up with the idea over a conversation at the family dinner table, and now the invention is looking to be rolled out at hospitals across Australia.

Macinley was also the first-ever Australian to win first place in the
world, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, when
she was just 16. “I think a bit of a misconception about science is
that it’s purely analytical and purely logical and that you have to be super intellectual, but that’s not true,” she explains. “Science is just as much creative thinking and critical thinking just as it is that analytical side.

So for anyone who is perhaps scared or thinks they aren’t smart enough to do science, I’d say just give it a go because you will surprise yourself”.


Tell us about your invention, ‘Smart Amour’.

I created the Smart Armour when I was in year 10, it’s a device for women going through radiation breast cancer treatment. It’s designed to shield the breast that is not being treated from the excess radiation that they may receive.

Are people already using this? Has it already been put into practice?

At the moment we are talking to various different hospitals about hopefully running a pilot study on it, which is so exciting! It means soon it will be out there helping real people in real situations.

Is there any sort of personal connection as to why breast cancer was such an area of interest for you?

A study came out that said approximately one in fourteen women that undergo radio therapy breast cancer treatment will develop a second primary cancer in the breast that wasn’t treated later in their lifetime. It was one of those things that I just read on the internet one day but it struck me. The fact that women who are already going through this treatment may have to do it again and relive all of those horrible experiences really struck me to my core – I thought, that isn’t fair! They shouldn’t have to go through this more than once.

You have been awarded as the NSW Young Australian of the Year which is just so massive, congratulations! That’s such an amazing achievement, how did it feel to find out that you had won this?

It was a complete and utter surprise! It’s not something I ever expected or ever thought I would receive an award like this. What I’ve been doing is me doing what I love. To help others and to receive this award was the most humbling experience.