They were motivated after the big BP spill last year during the summer that polluted the water, killing all sorts of wildlife, and "fouling thousands of miles of shoreline."
The Mendes Oil Trap is basically floating plastic crates, filled with oil-absorbing material made from recycled plastic bottles--they can be "deployed" to encircle an oil platform or a spill, and are chained together to protect the shoreline (like train cars). They are also designed so that they can be towed by boats.
This seems to be an easier method than the boom that was used previously to clean up the spill--boom is basically an oil containment device--orange inflatable floating lines designed to contain oil on the water's surface. Even experts say that boom works in a limited way as it can't contain oil in choppy waters. In the ocean, it contains maybe 10% of the oil.
They plan on researching and developing a little more to make the trap more commercially available and to convince big oil companies to invest in his traps as opposed to boom and chemical dispersants.
EcoTip: Buy a thermos in place of using a new water bottle everyday. Saves you the trouble of having to spend 2 to 3 bucks every time you run out of water bottles and saves the planet the trouble of plastic. I'm sure we've all seen the Brita commercial, that the U.S. produced enough water bottles to circle the globe 154 times--and none of these were recycled. Think of supply and demand: the more people use water bottles, the more they're going to be produced, which means that there's still a significant number of people who don't properly dispose of those water bottles.