CRMM Miniboat Program

The Miniboat Program from the Columbia River Maritime Museum provides a global, multidisciplinary STEAM learning experience for 5th-7th grade students in the Pacific Northwest and Japan by empowering them to cooperatively design, build, launch, and track seaworthy, GPS-equipped boats on a journey across the Pacific Ocean. Since the program’s start in 2017, more than 1,600 students on both sides of the Pacific have been involved in the launch of 27 miniboats that have traveled a total of 58,469 nautical miles — and counting. These boats are tracked daily, and students are still building on the skills they honed to launch them. The Miniboat Program is not only an educational tool, it’s also a portal for viewing careers that students might be interested in pursuing in the future.

Five-foot-long Miniboat Program sailboats have arrived on the shores of Alaska, California, Mexico, and the tiny Micronesian country of Kiribati, where they’ve been rescued and relaunched. The program creates a substantial and lasting impact — in the school communities and well beyond. This presentation will share inspiring stories of student teams taking on an audacious goal and the lessons they take away about the effects of ocean currents, using math to calculate route mileage, expressing themselves through boat design, and creating lasting international relationships with their cohorts in Japan. Miniboats are small, but they are mighty!


Nate Sandel, Director of Education, Columbia River Maritime Museum.

Nate Sandel has taught education programs to over 150,000 students in 37 states and four countries. He has a B.A. in Community Development from Central Michigan University and is a founding member of the Northwest STEM Hub. He has 16 years of experience in education in a career that began at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in 2005, a stint at the B Corp King Arthur Flour from 2012-2016, and then a return to the Maritime Museum where he was asked to rescue a flailing education department. By bridging the gap between STEAM education and history, Nate and his staff have fostered a 900 percent increase in the number of students reached by museum education programs annually. “Nate the Great,” as he’s been called by local students, is thrilled to be constantly learning from his colleagues and the students he interacts with on a daily basis.

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