Isotrope’s David Maxson wins Canal Safety Challenge

Those who follow Isotrope know we like to get involved in cool things, this post reports on the results of our latest cool project. Isotrope principal David Maxson entered a Canal Safety Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The challenge was to build a device to prevent drowning in irrigation canals.  On Thursday we got word that David won the Challenge! Read the Bureau’s press release below:


Reclamation awards for canal safety idea selected through prize competition

Media Contact: Terri Rorke 720-281-6683
For Release: Dec 16, 2021
Indoor Canal Section during demo of Isotrope’s canal safety device

The Bureau of Reclamation announced the winner of the Canal Safety Challenge today. Isotrope, LLC of Medfield, Massachusetts, will receive an award for its innovative idea to improve canal safety.

Competing against two other finalists in November 2021, Isotrope, LLC’s Rescue Deck™ prototype successfully showed the potential to reduce drownings in canals after testing in Reclamation Technical Service Center’s Hydraulics Laboratory in Denver. Prototype canal safety devices were also designed and fabricated by finalists Greenfields Irrigation District of Fairfield, Montana, and WGM Group of Missoula, Montana.

“Reclamation manages more than 8,000 miles of canals across the West and 10% of those are in urban areas,” said Chief Engineer David Raff. “Making canals safer to reduce drownings is an important initiative we are proud to support.”

David Maxson of Isotrope, LLC, said this was his first time participating in a competition like the Canal Safety Challenge and is eager to make his device “a real lifesaver in our irrigation canals.” All three devices were tested in the laboratory’s straight canal section. Devices were judged based on ability to rescue a human dummy, impacts to operation, debris management, cost and durability, and more.

The gradual slope of the Rescue Deck™ allowed for human dummies to wash up gently on the deck in a safe manner. The gradual slope may make it easier for individuals to exit canals on their own and improve access for rescuers. When coupled with an effective debris management system, impacts to operations may be minimized.

Reclamation launched the Canal Safety Challenge competition in October 2020 to seek new concepts and methods that can improve public safety and reduce accidents and drownings in canals.

Reclamation is partnering with the Denver Water, Klamath Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric, NASA Tournament Lab and Carrot. To learn more about this prize competition and to meet the winner, please visit

Reclamation conducts prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, problem-solver community. Through prize competitions, Reclamation complements traditional design research to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. In the past six years, Reclamation has awarded more than $4 million in prizes through 30 competitions. Please visit Reclamation’s Prize Competition Center to learn more.


The Bureau of Reclamation is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior and is the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Our facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation opportunities, and environmental benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR; Facebook @bureau.of.reclamation; LinkedIn @Bureau of Reclamation; Instagram @bureau_of_reclamation; and YouTube @reclamation.

Canal Safety Challenge

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