Sturgis InvenTeam Presents Marine Mammal Rescue Carrier to IFAW

From left to right: Paul Marble, Hailey Meaden ’14, Molly Brennan ’14, Olivia Furner ’17, Dr. Pete Sampou, Paul Fucile, Jacob Hempel ’15, Brian Sharp, Tony Perry & Sophie Gibson ’18


The Evolution of the ‘Sturgis Carrier’

Original InvenTeam Front row: Hannah Durette of Sandwich, Sarah Correia of Bourne, Dominic Fucile of Falmouth Back row: Ryley Newton of Hyannis, Jack Perry of Brewster, Josh Hassler of Sandwich

Over the past seven years, Sturgis Charter Public School students and faculty have developed an innovative new carrier that could be adopted by international marine mammal scientists to use to rescue stranded dolphins and other marine mammals.  Designed to be pulled through beach sand quickly by one or two people, the Sturgis Dolphin Rescue Carrier can hold up to 600 pounds and is expected to increase the odds of saving beached dolphins and other marine mammals, possibly including small whales. According to IFAW, Cape Cod is one of only a few places in the world where mass strandings of dolphins occur on a regular basis. The Cape accounts for about a quarter of all live dolphin strandings in the US, with 114 stranded live dolphins reported in 2017.

The Sturgis Charter Public School-West Campus in Hyannis, Mass., received a $10,000 InvenTeam grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to build a marine mammal rescue transporter during the 2012-2013 school year. The transporter was designed to quickly and easily move stranded dolphins, small whales, and seals at low tide off the beach and into waiting vehicles. The team stated, “Our inspiration for our affectionately named ‘Dolphin Cart’ is our surroundings. Members of our team come from both Sturgis Public Charter School campuses and we are from all around the Cape. At the time when we were discussing what our invention would be, there was a lot of dolphin strandings going on. ” The team worked throughout the year to design and build a prototype device with support from technical mentor and father of one team member, Paul Fucile of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  The InvenTeam showcased their prototype at EurekaFest, the capstone event held at MIT in June 2013.

The prototype returned to Sturgis West where it remained. Students graduated and move on to other projects. Ultimately, the transporter was transferred to East Campus where work began anew with a different group of students in 2015. The new InvenTeam – still inspired to help stranded marine mammals – went on to complete the transporter design in SolidWorks 3-D modeling software enabling the transporter to be fabricated.  Students with refined prototypes returned to subsequent EurekaFests at MIT in 2016 and 2017; the InvenTeam received the first Lemelson-MIT Commercialization Award in 2017.  (Account compiled by Lisa Capone, Leigh Estabrooks, Will Mathews & Tony Perry)

To learn more about how this project has unfolded, check out these two Soundings Articles:

Sturgis InvenTeam Designs Marine Mammal Rescue Transporter

Sturgis InvenTeam Celebrates Momentous Milestones

The Sturgis Dolphin Rescue Carrier is expected to get real world use aiding IFAW’s dolphin stranding response effortsThe students formally presented their Sturgis Dolphin Rescue Carrier to representatives from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at Gray’s Beach on March 30th, 2018. We hope you enjoy learning more about this collaborative initiative!


Paul Fucile, Center, with Original Sturgis InvenTeam

Quotes from Partnering Organizations


“It has been a great experience working with this group of dedicated students from Sturgis Charter Public School. The young engineers met the challenge wonderfully and put a tremendous effort into realizing their invention, which will certainly help save the lives of stranded dolphins.”

– Paul Fucile, Senior Engineer and one of several project advisors at WHOI

“I’m extremely proud of the Sturgis Charter Public School InvenTeam.  The students exemplify what an InvenTeam can accomplish beyond just one grant year when they are passionate about solving a real-world problem for their community. I’d like to thank the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for their continued support of the InvenTeam’s marine mammal rescue transporter.”

-Leigh Estabrooks, Invention Education Officer at the Lemelson-MIT Program.

“The Sturgis students have shown great persistence, diligence and innovation in developing this cart. My hope is that it will enable extraction of stranded dolphins from remote areas with relatively few people required.”

Brian Sharp gives a tour of IFAW’s Mobile Marine Mammal Rescue Unit

-Michael Moore, Director of the Marine Mammal Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

“For the last 20 years the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s stranding team has rescued and studied marine mammals on Cape Cod. Education and research are key to the development of technologies and techniques to increase the welfare of animals in distress. We are thrilled students at Sturgis Charter Public School have contributed their talents to our research initiatives to help improve the rescue of stranded marine mammals.

-Brian Sharp, Marine Mammal Rescue & Research Manager, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)


Brian Sharp explains why the Cape is unique for dolphin strandings


Dr. Pete Sampou, Faculty Advisor

Brian Sharp (left) & Dr. Pete Sampou (right)

You’re expecting to hear some dry technical background about this moon landing looking contraption behind me…. Talk to me, personally or better yet, some the students here who were behind its design. It does seem otherworldly…..

Instead I’d like to ask: Why am I here?

‘cause I’m a teacher and I recognize the potential that youth can bring to our world. I recognize that our future should be better than our past. I recognize the power of science and technology to deliver a better world, not just for humankind, but for other creatures that share our planet.

Dr. Pete Helps Operate the Sturgis Carrier During a Field Test

More than 3 years ago a group of 6 to 8 of the best students I have ever taught came up and asked that I be the Sturgis faculty sponsor for them to finish a seriously cool technology project, The Sturgis Dolphin Carrier, begun around 7 years ago that lay, unfinished and collecting dust in the basement of our building. This project had been supported by Lemelson-MIT and had a direct link with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I knew well these two, they’re amongst the most highly regarded scientific/technological institutions in the world…. The potential to finish something truly impressive was fully in the cards I was being dealt, I couldn’t say no! All I had to do was guide the energy and intelligence of this group of students I’d already been highly impressed with. All I had to do was “Ride Herd”.

Why are we here?

To recognize the seed money and ability of an organization like Lemelson-MIT to motivate high school students to develop technological solutions to problems we might not even realize exist.

Sturgis InvenTeam at Eureka Fest 2017

To acknowledge and celebrate the passion of two groups of students, who with the guidance of an incredibly father and a couple of teachers, designed a better way to save the lives of remarkable creatures that strand themselves in our dry-land world, a place their bodies cannot long survive. We are here to give to the world’s most active dolphin rescue organization, IFAW, a technology that should do a better job. A technology that can transport a stranded dolphin faster and with less trauma to IFAW’s nearby “dolphin hospital” and then get them released back into the water with a minimum amount of handling.

I am here because I recognized a better future, an unfulfilled promise that a group of really smart and dedicated youths wanted to bring to our world. I’m here because I was taught at an early age to finish projects that deserve to be finished. I am here because I am lucky to be a teacher at Sturgis.


Sophie Gibson, East class of 2018, thanks all those involved


Student Demonstration of the ‘Sturgis Carrier’

Media Coverage

Sturgis Students Unveil Dolphin Rescue Carrier” by Bronwen Walsh, Barnstable Patriot

Sturgis School Students Develop & Demonstrate New Dolphin Rescue Carrier!



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