Originally published in Sturgis StormWatch. Reprinted with permission of the authors.
By Olivia Furner and Mark Agostinelli
On June 17, the Sturgis InvenTeam showcased the computer-aided design of their improved Marine Mammal Rescue Transporter at MIT’s EurekaFest 2016. In this two-hour event, Sturgis was one of sixteen schools nationwide to present their inventions to scientists and professors from all over the world as part of the Lemelson-MIT Foundation’s initiative to inspire youth creativity and problem-solving.
After the exhibition of the high school student inventions at the Stata Center on MIT’s main campus, the student exhibitors packed into MIT’s Kirsch Auditorium. There, the collegiate winners of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prizes discussed their technology-based inventions, which ranged from completely automated fast food restaurants to glasses that could translate sign language. The day ended with a friendly competition among high schools to build the tallest tower only using spaghetti, yarn, and masking tape!
The Sturgis InvenTeam began in 2012, when a group of Sturgis West students received a grant from the Lemelson-MIT Foundation to build a prototype of a cart that could be used to save stranded animals. (See Sturgis InvenTeam Designs Marine Mammal Rescue Transporter for details about the original project.)
Soliciting the technical expertise of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a group of Sturgis East students revitalized the project in 2015. They made the cart more cost-efficient, lightweight, and trauma-reducing than current IFAW carts so that this design, known as the Sturgis Carrier, can be deployed in real-life stranding response missions by IFAW.
October 9th was another milestone for the Sturgis InvenTeam. On this day, the Sturgis Carrier underwent extensive field trials under the direction of IFAW. Led by Charles “CT” Harry, the Assistant Stranding Coordinator for IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program, the InvenTeam spent the morning at Sandy Neck beach testing the cart’s stability and maneuverability on sand, rocky terrain, and hills.
Mr. Harry and the Sturgis team simulated a dolphin stranding by using a life-size plastic dolphin that was filled with water to make its weight comparable to that of an actual dolphin. They used the “3-fold technique” to gently lift the dolphin onto their modified sling, to attach the sling to the carrier via a pulley system, and to raise and stabilize the connected sling within minutes. Mr. Harry expressed his satisfaction with the modified trapezoidal frame and pulley system, both of which allow for maximized stability. He was also impressed by the integrated weighing capability that minimizes the number of operators required.
While Sturgis InvenTeam awaits direction from IFAW regarding the next steps, the team is currently working on a joint utility patent application in partnership with Woods Hole. The team remains on track to have Sturgis Carriers deployed across Cape Cod, and potentially beyond Cape Cod, before graduation in June!