Miniboat Regatta Exposes High School Students to the Ocean
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Schools and organizations in nine countries around the Atlantic are preparing to launch miniboats for the annual Atlantic Regatta which aims to strengthen students’ knowledge in marine science. Amongst them, are students from Mobile Central High School in Mobile, NL – the only Canadian team taking part in this year’s “The Once Around Regatta.” 

The Regatta is organized by Educational Passages in Maine, US and sees students launch unmanned miniboats equipped with GPS tracking devices into the Atlantic Ocean, and in doing so, study the ocean and wind patterns and other factors between North America and Europe. 

This year, experts from the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University entered Mobile Central High into the Regatta  and have been working with the students to help them prepare for the event, which will allow them to learn, first hand, about sailing historic routes across the Atlantic. 

Oceans of Excitement  

“The Miniboat Regatta is an exciting opportunity for students to learn about the ocean and ocean technology,” said Paul Brett, Head of MI’s School of Ocean Technology. “Students in grades 7, 8, and 9 at Mobile Central High School worked together to prepare their boat for launch and will keep a close eye on their vessel as it tracks towards Europe.” 

To kick-start Regatta activities, representatives from MI’s School of Ocean Technology and Office of Student Recruitment held a half-day session with the students, with activities focusing on boat building, ocean mapping as well as decorating, naming and personalizing their miniboat. 

“The Miniboat Regatta is a great way to get students interested in the ocean, exposing them to oceanographic science, geography, engineering, navigation, earth science, naval architecture, meteorology history and international affairs,” said Jennifer Howell, Enrolment Management Coordinator at MI. “The students at Mobile Central High School were very engaged in the project and are looking forward to their miniboat being launched in the next few weeks. 

Miniboat Tracking 

The miniboats are five feet long and require no outside assistance (unless they reach landfall early) and will sail a natural course based on currents and winds. 

“As these boats travel the ocean, they can be tracked in real time online, giving the students involved exposure to the North Atlantic oceanographic conditions and the technologies available to explore it,” said Paul Brett. “Boats launched off North America will take the northern route to Europe while the European miniboats will take the old, historic route to the Caribbean and then on to the US.”

Miniboat are expected to have three or four stops along the way and are expected to begin making landfall in late February or early March. Using GPS data and partnering with marine professionals, students can practice geography, communication, and outreach while recovering boats. Once safely back at a participating school the recently landed miniboat can connect the groups of students, though they may be separated by distance, language, or cultural barriers.