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Local students' boats headed to Japan

The crowd listens while an engineer from Pacific Power talks about the mini boat program. (Courtesy Columbia River Maritime Museum)
Thursday, January 30, 2020

A small boat built by students at Warrenton Grade School is on its way across the ocean, destination Japan.

More than 200 people attended the miniboat summit this week at Columbia River Maritime Museum. Three Oregon schools, including WGS, launched boats as part of the program and after working remotely with students in Japan.

The students christened their boats with sparkling cider, a U.S. maritime tradition, and doused them with salt for good luck, a Japanese tradition. Then they were given to the U.S. Coast Guard and Columbia River Bar Pilots for launching.

Pacific Power’s chief executive, Stefan Bird, congratulated the students on their success. The company was a major supporter of the program this year, helping the class in Warrenton add solar-powered lights to its boat.

“These are the kinds of employees we’re going to need,” Bird said.

Seventh-graders from WGS and Wy’east Middle School in Vancouver, Wash., handed their boats off to the bar pilots for launching off the Oregon Coast.

The boat from Columbia City Elementary was taken by the U.S. Coast Guard for launching off the coast of California.

“This is a global, multi-disciplinary STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) educational program for students in the U.S. and Japan,” said Nate Sandel, director of the miniboat program for the museum, which sponsors the program. “I’m pretty sure this program has changed a few students’ lives and maybe the trajectories of what they want to do when they grow up.”

The public can track the progress of the GPS-enabled boats and follow along on the miniboat adventures through the Columbia River Maritime Museum’s website.

A Columbia River bar pilot accepts the boat from Warrenton Grade School for launching off the coast of Oregon. (Courtesy Columbia River Maritime Museum)

Nate Sandel, director of the mini boat program for the museum, talks to the crowd, which includes state Sen. Betsy Johnson in front row, left. (Courtesy Columbia River Maritime Museum)

Science teacher Heidi Lent, left, and students from Warrenton Grade School pose with their boat before taking it to the miniboat summit at Columbia River Maritime Museum. (Courtesy Columbia River Maritime Museum)

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