Columbia River Maritime Museum and Pacific Power Host "Mighty Miniboat Float" Live Events

May 22, 2020

ASTORIA, Ore. — We might not be traveling far these days, but a 5-foot long GPS-tracked miniboat, designed and launched by local students, sure is – as part of the Columbia River Maritime Museum’s Miniboat Program. On Friday, May 29, the public can join the adventure via livestream as the pint-sized vessel is launched into the mighty Columbia River. It’s the first in a series of three online distance learning events supported by Pacific Power that will follow the boat on its voyage between the Port of Vancouver to Astoria.

The Miniboat Program provides a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity that introduces students to ocean science, international exchange, and the STEAM fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, helping to inspire future careers. Earlier this year, a fleet of seaworthy vessels cooperatively designed and built by participating elementary and middle school students was launched from the west coast. An identical fleet was launched by sister schools in Japan, ideally headed this way.

While those boats navigate to distant shores (you can track their progress here), the Museum, together with Pacific Power, is hosting a mini adventure closer to home. On Friday, May 29, 2020, they will launch the "Mighty Miniboat Float” events, open to all students and the public.

Participants can view the livestreamed series on the Museum’s Miniboat Facebook page and YouTube channel, and are encouraged to tune in starting at 11:45 a.m. More details are available on the Museum’s website.

Friday, May 29, 12-1 p.m.: A Miniboat’s Big Adventure

The first livestream will cover the local miniboat launch near the Port of Vancouver, Washington, from a Shaver tugboat. The segment will continue with captivating, educational programming that introduces the miniboat phenomenon, weaving in STEAM concepts in an accessible way.

Friday, June 5, 12-1 p.m.: Thar She Blows!

The second livestream will introduce the role of wind and currents, as participants check in on the fleet and discuss the vessels’ progress.

Friday, June 12, 12-1 p.m.: The Mighty Columbia

The third livestream will explore how a working river…works, in a celebration of the industry and communities that depend on our region's biggest river. We’ll hear from bar pilots, ship captains, tugboat operators, and more about their real-river jobs.

The sessions will be hosted by Nate Sandel, education director, Columbia River Maritime Museum and Pacific Power’s Alisa Dunlap, community manager for the North Coast of Oregon. Student shipbuilders, representatives from the Columbia River Bar Pilots, Shaver Transportation, and other surprise guests will join in the engaging experience as they bring science to life.

“Miniboats have the power to create substantial and lasting impact, and we are delighted to bring their might into local homes to help inspire even more students and families,” said Sandel of the program and livestream. “We’ve seen these boats capture the imagination of our students, but also many people from around the world, who encounter the boats, help with a rescue, or simply follow the boats’ progress online. These livestream events will allow us to bring their magic to even more households.”

This is the third year of the museum’s Miniboat Program, with more than 59,000 nautical miles traveled to date. Pacific Power has supported the program this school year, providing mentorship in the classroom with company engineers helping to install solar onto a miniboat deck.  

One of this year’s boats, created by students at Wy’East Middle School in Vancouver, Washington washed ashore after its ocean launch earlier this year. The students will now give their boat a “second chance voyage” on the Columbia River, before it is eventually relaunched at sea.

“Witnessing these young students navigate their miniboat journey underscores the importance of trying, failing, and then trying again. It’s an essential part of the STEAM process,” says Pacific Power President and CEO Stefan Bird. “These students will become our future engineers, problem solvers, and leaders, and it’s why programs like this matter to Pacific Power and businesses across Oregon.”

Through the Miniboat Program, students take on roles as quartermasters, sail designers, keel engineers, cargo trackers, and documentarians. Along the way, they learn real-world skills and make friends overseas while they track their boats online, which are packed with mementos curated by the students. 

“We have been honored to have a front-row seat in supporting this engaging curriculum, which offers an extraordinary way for students to learn crucial STEAM skills during the critical late-elementary and early middle school years,” said Dunlap. “We are proud of our role in helping them discover future career options, while building international connections that will last a lifetime.”

The Miniboat Program was developed by the Columbia River Maritime Museum in partnership with the Consular Office of Japan in Portland, Educational Passages, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and is supported by Pacific Power, the U.S. Coast Guard, and many others. The public can follow the miniboat adventures on Facebook at CRMM Miniboat Program or through the museum’s website at crmm.org.