UW alumni runner-up for James Dyson Award WhaleSafe finds success in national design engineering contest

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WhaleSafe, an on-demand fishing device created by three UW alumni, Collin Bolt, Jake Chateauneuf and Benjamin Beazley, has received the runner-up distinction in the Canada National James Dyson Award. The device aims to help prevent the death of whales who often become trapped in lobster and crab fishing equipment. 

Bolt said that the recognition was one that he and his co-creators “definitely weren’t expecting.” 

“There were a lot of great, great applications, and we were just glad to be in the running,” Bolt said. 

WhaleSafe, which won $5,000 this March from the Velocity program’s pitch contest, was their mechanical engineering capstone project. While most lobster and crab fishing involves releasing a vertical rope down to the ocean floor, their rope-on-demand fishing gear instead stores the rope buoy underwater to prevent whale entanglement as ropes are no longer floating for up to days on end. 

Beyond the entrepreneurial spirit and support that he said he and his team members received from the university, Beazley also credited their different areas of expertise as an important factor in their progress. 

“I think we’ve all ended up having a little bit of an area that we specialize in, which has sort of helped us with this project. There’s been little challenges for it to go, you know, beyond what we learned in school, and this really helped with that.” 

Chateauneuf explained that working alongside Velocity also allowed him, Bolt, and Beazley to develop WhaleSafe into the next phase of their multi-year plan. 

“We’ve been redesigning parts of the system to get it ready for sea trials, which we’re hoping to do next year so that we can actually test our system out in the ocean and tweak it from there,” he said. 

Another thing Chateauneuf felt made their WhaleSafe journey unique to UW was the intellectual property laws they were operating within, which allowed them to retain their IP. 

“If you’re entrepreneurial, Waterloo is a good place. Because if you make something, it’s yours,” he said. 

If you are interested in learning more about WhaleSafe, reach out to cgbolt@uwaterloo.ca.  

Quotes were lightly edited for clarity.