Designer Spotlight: Gabriella Levine

By admin

gabriellaGabriella is an interactive artist and open-source hardware designer interested in the relationship between technology and ecology. She is COO of Protei, an Open Hardware Shape-Shifting Sailing Robot developed to sense and clean the oceans. Protei launched a number of these vessels on the water, and they’re planning to manufacture and distribute boats and boat kits by the end of 2013. To research the marketing strategies, conduct testing and develop a global community Gabriella recently embarked on the Unreasonable at Sea journey. During one of the ports in Morocco, Gabriella and Cesar Harada, the founder and CEO of Protei, held a hackathon.

How did the hackathon go?

The participants were given 12 hours to conceive, design and test an aquatic vehicle. [littleBits] got people excited, people that were programmers that had never interfaced with hardware before. My passion is using open source platforms to play with new technologies and make control systems and sensing networks. 

Tell us about your background.

My background is in biology and piano and I started at Cornell University. I ended up transferring to Oberlin college. It was there when I decided not to devote all of my time to piano. I started getting incolved in video and new media, but I was still doing biology. I did cancer research after school and I started creating multimedia art and teaching myself programming. I had these hybrid of skills and didn’t know how to combine them.
I took a break and ended up becoming a wildlife fire fighter (I am also a former raft guide and EMT) so it was something interesting to pursue. Then, I ended up going to ITP where I learned about electronics. I was really excited about modeling stuff from biomimetic forms of design and doing a lot with robotic and hardware reacting and robots that use sustainable measures to transmit data, like solar panels and sustainable energy.

How did you get involved with Protei?

I saw on Adafruit that Cesar was looking for people to come build the 6th version of the boat – the biggest sailing robot that had been built in 2011. It was a 25 meter autonomous sailing robot with a 3.5 meter oil collection tail. The concept of the boat was to be able to use sailing power to haul oil collecting equipment in the tail. In order to do that, the boat itself had to change shape and have a flexible hull. The two sails could be at different angles during a turn so that it didn’t lose momentum while crossing the wing in a current.
The project took off from there. I went back to New York to complete ITP and was continuing to fabricate my own version of Protei —  it’s all about open source and DIY drone technologies. We spent 3 weeks publishing a 100 page document on the boat. Then, I got a grant from the Savannah Ocean Exchange for the project.

PROTEI PRESENTATION VIDEO from toni nottebohm on Vimeo.

We’re trying to make it more like a company. We’re trying to manufacture boats in China, generate revenue and do outreach to have people testing and improving the boats. We just got back from Unreasonable at Sea, an accelerator program. It’s a partnership with Stanford d. School and Semester at Sea, a floating university for college students. We were 1 of 10 companies on the ship doing research, user testing, field work, etc. Then, we decided to move to China to manufacture and build the community. Currently, I’m based in New York.
To learn more about Gabriella, visit her website.



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