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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center, has awarded local Maui man Cole Keaoulu Santos $10,000 for his unique and environmentally-friendly buoy mooring system which stabilizes a boat on the ocean surface.
S&T and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center sponsored the America COMPETES prize competition and drew the participation of hundreds of interested scientists and innovators. When Cole Santos saw that the federal government had issued a prize competition challenge seeking ideas, he knew he would apply.
The prize competition came from the United States Coast Guard’s need to operationalize an innovative method to anchor navigational buoys that would minimally impact the ocean floor and environmentally sensitive areas.
“Reaching out to citizen-scientists for their creative ideas is important to our ability to improve safety and security across the nation,” said Dr. Reginald Brothers, DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “When the Coast Guard told us of their concern about outdated mooring systems that haven’t changed in decades, S&T reached out to the innovation community for ideas for a fix.”
Prize competition winner Cole Santos grew up in and around the water.
Cole Santos will receive a $10,000 cash award for his winning submission, a line with inner elastic cords that is surrounded and protected by ultra-high-strength, poly-fiber rope, and embedded into the seafloor by a screw anchor. As an alternative to using screw anchors in areas where environmental damage has already occurred, he proposed the use of reef balls as a means of restoring ailing coral reefs and creating new habitats for local marine life.
The combined approach would eliminate the scouring of the seabed that occurs with current chain-and-anchor buoy systems. This idea was selected above all others because it uses an already proven technology and will have minimal impact on the environmentally sensitive ocean floor.
Cole Santos developed his winning proposal after observing several different types of mooring and anchoring techniques, including the use of divers to install manta moorings locally, screw-type anchors used in Australia, and elastic mooring cables employed in New England.
“I have experience building and maintaining moorings locally on the island and mooring conservation is a big deal here in Maui,” he said. “Our reefs in Maui, and everywhere else, are an economic asset that is real, tangible and under serious decline for various environmental reasons, most of which involve humans.”
“I strive to be a productive gear in human progress,” Cole Santos responded when asked what drew him to the prize challenge. “Seeing things I work on become successful drives me to more progress. I want to see mankind overcome himself.”
In addition to being a scuba diver, he has worked as a tropical aquarium collector, commercial fisherman, and is known for his involvement with local community issues regarding artificial reef systems and habitats. He is a founder of a makerspace organization, Maui Makers LLC. One of his life goals is to build artificial islands for seasteading and space habitats.
When he’s not tackling environmental issues or diving, he works as a self-employed real estate professional. Cole Santos lives on Maui with his wife and three children.