Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge finalists competition

Four Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge finalists – a software consultant, a robotics professor, a civil engineer and a hydraulic engineer – will compete for $500,000 in cash prizes during the “Carp Tank” livestream event Tuesday, March 27, beginning at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern) at

Finalists each will have 15 minutes to explain their proposed methods for keeping invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes and five minutes to respond to questions from a four-judge panel. The awards presentation is anticipated at 11:45 a.m. (Eastern) and also will be livestreamed.

In February 2017, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge, a worldwide search for ideas to stop invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes.

“Protecting the Great Lakes is a top priority for the state and its residents because invasive carp pose a serious threat to our ecology and economy,” Snyder said. “The Carp Challenge has spurred innovators and entrepreneurs to bring their best ideas to the table to help the Great Lakes region combat this imminent threat. I’m excited to learn more about their proposals.”

InnoCentive, a global crowdsourcing company, posted the challenge from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, 2017, through its online challenge center,, netting 353 entries from 27 countries.

All solutions were submitted anonymously. Entrants’ names and credentials were withheld until finalist and runner-up solutions were selected. A panel of expert judges selected four finalists, who each received $10,000 and the opportunity to compete in Tuesday’s Carp Tank for prizes of $200,000, $125,000, $100,000 and $75,000.

The four finalists are:

Edem Tsikata, a software consultant from Boston who holds a Ph.D. in experimental atomic physics from Harvard University and spent time as a researcher in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Dr. D.J. Lee, a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University who is a professor and director of the Robotic Vision Laboratory in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Brigham Young University.

David A. Hamilton, a senior policy director for The Nature Conservancy, focusing on reducing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes region. He holds an M.S. in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Michael Scurlock, a hydraulic engineer with RiverRestoration who has published multiple design methodologies for implementation of river restoration structures. He holds a doctorate from Colorado State University and is a registered professional engineer.

Judges also selected six runners-up whose entries they felt were worthy of sharing with researchers in the field of invasive carp management. Each runner-up was awarded $25,000 and invited to present their ideas to researchers and venture capitalists at the Great Lakes Invasive Carp Summit, taking place Tuesday, March 27, following the Carp Tank event.

The runners-up include:

Micheal Ahimbisibwe, the founder and director of research for Bravespec Systems, Ltd., an energy and research development company.

Dr. Stephen Walker, the chief engineer for Phyre Technologies, developing novel techniques for liquid and gas deoxygenation.

Philip Doberenz, the founder and chief inventor of X-Tirp Inc., which designs and sells tools to control invasive species.

Thomas Bliznik, a resident of Petoskey, Michigan, who works in the power and industrial market.

Lawrence P. Kearns, a founding principal of Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, who focuses on cultural and education projects with ambitious social, economic and environmental goals.

Matthew Cook, the founder, CEO and technical director of SeaView Systems, Inc., a global company that uses underwater robotic technology for tunnel inspections and infrastructure intervention.

Invasive bighead, silver and black carp can significantly alter the Great Lakes ecosystem, affecting the $7 billion fishery, $16 billion boating industry and others dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

In June 2017, a silver carp was caught just nine miles away from Lake Michigan, below the electric barrier system designed to keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. In 2010, a bighead carp was also captured below the barrier system.

These incidents emphasize the need for action and innovation to prevent these fish from doing potentially irreparable ecological and economic damage to Michigan’s signature and defining natural resource.

In January 2018, Governor Snyder announced the formation of the Great Lakes Basin Partnership to Block Asian Carp. This growing coalition of states and provinces is committed to supporting the $8 million annual cost of operations and maintenance for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Tentatively Selected Plan to reduce the risk of invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Joliet, Illinois.