GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - For a group of Gulfport High STEM students, a solution to help oyster fisherman raise and lower cages from the water has garnered a national award.
Only 14 teams in the country are selected as Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant recipients, and this year Gulfport is in that mix for the second time in four years.
Their invention came as an answer to freshwater intrusion from the Bonnet Carré Spillway damaging oyster reefs in the Mississippi Sound.
They came up with a compressed air device that raises and lowers oyster-harvesting cages into the water.
"What they do now is they put the oysters in the younger stage of development in here and they let them grow in the water,” said Colton Bruni, Gulfport STEM student. "What we're doing is we're going to fill it with water with our pump system so it can go underwater and keep the oysters alive and be able to come back up at the same time so it can also bleach them."
The group found that getting the cage in and out of the water is an arduous task.
“The reason we chose this is because 80% of an oyster farmer’s budget is getting manual labor to lift and flip the oyster cages,” said Jade Geiselman, Gulfport High senior. “These things can get up to 200-300 pounds when they’re full of oysters.”
The device even caught the eye and the interest of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
"It’s a creative technology and the students are really taking the lead on this and trying to develop something innovative,” said Jason Rider, DMR oyster extension agent.