• Cormac

The Catalyst

Updated: Feb 13, 2019

Coming from spontaneous beginnings, the LobsterLift idea came out of an American team at an international prototype hackathon in Kuching, Malaysia.

It all began at a prototype hackathon. Don't know what that is? well neither did I until Lauren Shum (a co-worker and friend) introduced me to the idea over a lunch where we were discussing how we could get the company we were working for to take on more sustainable practices. She told me she had done one before, and that this year the same competition was in Malaysia. The competition was only 3 months away, and it sounded like something I may regret not doing, so I said yes. As the data came closer, I met the other two team members at a coffee shop, and we all hit it off with each other. We all had the same interest in sacrificing vacation time for working on a time intensive engineering project that could potentially help the world in some way. At this point, we had no idea what we would be working on, but we knew that the team was excited and eager to start.

We get to malaysia, and spend the next week working around the clock to come up with something worth the trip, and we had our minds set on coming up with a solution for this ghost gear and entanglement issue that we knew little about prior to getting there. One of the staff, Andrew Thaler, worked with us from 11PM to 1AM one night, and connected us with a Maine Lobsterman, Josh Stoll the next day. We tried to get as much information from him in as little time possible. We desperately needed this since without him, we probably would have come up with something that had some obvious major flaws that we couldn't see since we were not lobstermen ourselves. Coming up on the last day of 5, we finally cement in our concept, now we just need to make a model of it that gives enough of a demo to the judges, and also just know our stuff for when we get questioned on it. We definitely spent the most time working on the latter.

"Well, I guess we have to actually do something with this idea now…"

The competition had people from all over the world competing, and the atmosphere was competitive in that everyone was trying their hardest to win, but it being a competition for oceanic conservation prototypes, everyone was extremely helpful and friendly. One of the teams (team scoutbots) even brought a bunch of tools for making their prototype model, and let everyone else use them, as well as some extra supplies they had purchased at the event. We did the same with our purchased items, but mainly from riding on the coattails of their generosity.

During the pitch event, where all of the teams explain their projects, it was a great feeling to just be a part of the event, since everyone there had the common goal of making things better that what they are today. As our turn comes up, we head to the stage, and I was genuinely excited to tell the judges our idea, and we were ready/curious to hear what some of their questions would be, as they are experts in their fields, and would have some great insights for us. The presentation is over, and we to hear how we did. As we wait and see the teams receive their awards, we become more anxious as it gets closer to revealing the grand prize. I had a bit of doubt that we were going to get it, because a lot of the other teams had much more compete prototypes than us as we focused the majority of the time on just development of the idea, as well as starting from scratch a few times because the ideas we had prior we found some holes in. They name the grand prize and its us! $4000 to start this project, and it was one of the most exciting achievements I’ve made to date! (the rest of the team felt the same way, too) We sit back down after and look at each other in amazement. We all have the same silly smile, and we are all thinking the same thing. “Well, I guess we have to actually do something with this idea now…”.

We have a half-day to get packed up to head home, and we all wanted to stay in Malaysia a bit longer, as from what we saw, the people were very friendly, the land was beautiful, and the "vacation" goal was not yet fulfilled. We'll be back, Malaysia..

Relevant articles on the event

Here's the link to the competition, and what it's all about:

Here's their description of our project:

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