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Sailing into learning

Mobile high school only Canadian team entered in Atlantic regatta

By Leslie Earle

Schools and organizations in nine countries around the Atlantic are preparing to launch mini-boats for the annual Atlantic regatta.

Among them are students from Mobile Central High School in Mobile, N.L. — the only Canadian team taking part in this year’s event, The Once Around RegattaThe event aims to strengthen students’ knowledge in marine science.

American host

The regatta, which is organized by Educational Passages in Maine, U.S., sees students launch unmanned mini-boats 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) 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.

MI's Paul Brett speaks with students at Mobile Central High School.
MI’s Paul Brett speaks with students at Mobile Central High School.
Photo: Krista Sweetland

Oceans of excitement

“The mini-boat regatta is an exciting opportunity for students to learn about the ocean and ocean technology,” said Paul Brett, head, School of Ocean Technology, Marine Institute. “Students in Grades 7, 8, and 9 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 the Office of Student Recruitment held a half-day session with the students, with activities focusing on boat building, ocean mapping and decorating, naming and personalizing their mini-boat.

“Boats launched off North America will take the northern route to Europe, while the European mini-boats will take the old, historic route to the Caribbean and then on to the U.S.” — Paul Brett

“This event 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 co-ordinator, Marine Institute. “The students at Mobile Central High School were very engaged in the project and are looking forward to their mini-boat being launched in the next few weeks.”

Mini-boat tracking

The mini-boats 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 Mr. Brett. “Boats launched off North America will take the northern route to Europe, while the European mini-boats will take the old, historic route to the Caribbean and then on to the U.S.”

The mini-boats 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 mini-boat can connect the groups of students, though they may be separated by distance, language or cultural barriers.


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