Nearly every EC spent the summer immersed in an internship; only one spent it as a finalist on a reality TV show. Dave Moeller (OC), with MIT Ph.D Craig Forest, was selected from about 2,000 applicants to be the New York regional finalist on ABC’s American Inventor.
Their invention? The Claw – a revolutionary bike hanging device that latches on to the front or back tire with just a vertical motion and eliminates the struggle to wrestle a bike on or off a hook.
American Inventor – produced by American Idol’s Simon Cowell – aired its second season this summer with the goal of “uncovering the hottest new product and making a struggling inventor’s dream come true.” The show held auditions in six cities around the country. Finalists were awarded $50,000 and given one month to create prototypes of their inventions in LA.
The judges – including boxer-turned-grill-entrepreneur George Foreman – were impressed with The Claw. “With a tight deadline and savvy judges, being a business student was a huge advantage,” noted Moeller. “It’s all in the presentation – just one of the skills business school has really helped me to develop.”
Moeller and Forest, a team of two Georgia Tech alums, had invested three years and over $3,000 to develop The Claw when they auditioned for the show last Spring. They were surprised by the producers in June with news of advancement to the finals, in the presence of friends, family and fellow sectionmates.
Moeller, who had planned to intern for Citi Bank this summer in New York City, was then faced with a dilemma: how do you tell your dream internship that you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a reality-TV finalist?
“When I called the recruiter to explain the situation, she was speechless. I don’t think they had ever faced this sort of complication before,” said Moeller. Citi ultimately allowed Moeller to shorten his internship in order to dedicate time this summer to The Claw’s development in LA.
“There aren’t too many ‘hip’ role models in the engineering community,” the duo told producers. “So we hope to show kids that this sort of work is actually cool.”
Although Moeller and Forest were eliminated before the American-Idol-type call-in vote, they still consider it a victory “for ‘enginerds’ everywhere.”
The next step? “We’re heading to Las Vegas for Interbike, the largest bike retail trade show in the world, this month to meet with distributors and potential partners,” Moeller said.