1st Voyage

Howe Hall Arts Infused Magnet School (AIMS) in Goose Creek, SC started their miniboat build during the 2022-2023 school year. By May, they were ready to launch their miniboat which they named the “SS AIMS Infinity” (SS meaning “School Ship” and not just “Sailing Ship”).

  • February 2023: Preparations begin

    February 1st: Before the start of our build, students worked on a sea shanty for our school. They learned about them, and wrote their own to the Wellerman tune.

    February 7th: Students have begun working on the boat and filled the keel. Groups of students have been assigned to various boat teams. 

    February 10th: Two different groups of students in 3rd grade presented the boat project to the 1st graders and asked for boat name ideas. They came up with several ideas, and then passed several names onto the Kindergartners to vote. The final name voted on was the SS AIMS Infinity.

    February 16th: Students have begun to look at installing the keel. Students have prepared everything and will install it on a later date. 2nd graders are now working on puzzle pieces that will be adhered to the deck of the boat.

    The plan is to have it deployed by the R/V Nancy Foster out of Charleston, SC at the end of May/early June.

  • March 2023: Technology integration begins

    March 6th: Students began to learn about the technology that will track the boat and learned how to connect and disconnect different components.

    March 24th: Keel was installed.

    April 5th: Students installed the water temperature sensor onto the boat. 

    April 18th: Students began to research our school and build a brochure to go in the boat along with recipes of foods from South Carolina.

    The plan is to have it deployed by the R/V Nancy Foster out of Charleston, SC at the end of May/early June.

  • April - May 2023: Final preparations

    April 22nd: Students began to adhere the puzzle pieces students created onto the boat. Our 3rd-5th grade Art Chameleons decorated two special pieces that went onto the top of the boat. Over the next few weeks they applied several coats of marine sealant on it.

    May 12th: Students sanded and painted the hull of the boat over several days. Launch team began to discuss what would need to be done and who would be the best candidate for launching the mini boat.

    May 15th: Contacted ENS Lucas and ENS Sisson to discuss having the Nancy Foster NOAA research vessel launch the boat.

    May 21st: Water test was a success!

    May 23rd: GPS and sensor tested. Realized the GPS switch was in the wrong position. Once turned on, signal was sending. Getting all items finished and finalized for a hopeful launch before the end of May. 

    May 25th: NOAA officers and tech survey members came out to speak with students about their jobs. Students were able to ask questions and meet the people that will help to launch the boat.

    Pictures taken of the main build team and the student that named the boat.

    May 29th: met ENS Sisson to pass off boat for launch. The vessel Nancy Foster will carry the SS AIMS Infinity to the Gulf Stream for deployment.

  • June 8, 2023: Launched by the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster

    We received word that the NOAA Research Vessel Nancy Foster released the miniboat on June 8, 2023 (World Ocean Day!) at 19:09 UTC and location of 32 deg 18.628 min North, 78 deg 37.235 min West. The miniboat was deployed by ENS Desda Sisson, Junior Officer.

  • June 13, 2023: Recovered at sea off the coast of North Carolina

    On the morning of June 13, 2023, we received a call from Lance Bradley, who was out in the Gulf Stream for a fishing tournament. He and his crew on the Shifting Gears spotted the miniboat and called the number on deck right away. After hearing more about the project, they thought it would be a good idea to keep it safe on their deck until the tournament was over, so they brought it back to the dock.

    On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, the miniboat caught the eye everyone at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament! More from the crew here:

    And Terry Labonte posted it on his Facebook page, too. Many of the involved students are big fans of Terry!

    The plan is to relaunch the boat towards the end of the tournament. Special thanks to Lance, Terry, Tommy, and all in Morehead City for getting excited about the project!

2nd Voyage

The SS AIMS INFINITY, which was recently “caught” during The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament by the and crew of SHIFTING GEARS was first launched by NOAA Ship Nancy Foster on June 8th while on their mission to map the seafloor.

The 3rd graders at Howe Hall AIMS built it this school year as part of an awesome arts infused program.

Read below to explore and engage with Voyage 2!

  • Press Release: The SS AIMS InFINity’s Voyage 1 - Short But Exciting

    June 19, 2023 Press Release

    The SS AIMS InFINity’s Voyage 1: Short But Exciting

    Goose Creek, SC. The student miniboat, the SS AIMS InFINity, found itself in the middle of the Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament last week. Just off the Outer Banks, the crew on two time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte’s boat, Shifting Gears, found and brought the miniboat on shore on June 13th. The fishing tournament is the largest of its kind and has been raising money for local Carteret County Schools. 

    Although its maiden journey was short (less than 5 days and traveling 265 km from Charleston, SC after it was launched on June 8), the start of this project began back in February of 2022. Maria Earl and Jennifer Dragotta, teachers from Howe Hall AIMS Elementary, an arts infused magnet school in Goose Creek, SC, happened across a news article about a miniboat from Rye, NH, that had landed in Norway. Maria Earl explained, “We realized that the building of this ship could be so much more than just an engineering project. This could be a unifying theme for all content areas and fine arts, while inspiring future career interests through practical and artistic application of what the students were learning.” 

    They contacted Educational Passages which worked with the school to make these aspirations come to life. Based out of Maine, the non-profit organization’s mission is to connect students around the world to the ocean and each other through these miniboat projects (see educationalpassages.org).

    Last year, the school was awarded a Santee Cooper Steam grant and received additional support from the Berkeley County School District and their principal, Chris Swetckie, to take part in the Miniboat Program for the 2022-2023 school year. Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s largest power and utility company. With the funding in place, the miniboat kit was shipped to the school, and the work to build the boat began.

    Jennifer Dragotta and her 3rd grade students began building the miniboat using the workbooks and supplies from Educational Passages. Taking the lesson plans provided and infusing the arts, students in all grade levels helped to complete the boat by May of 2023. Jennifer Dragotta said that the process was a school wide effort. “Different student teams were created and began to plan how to do everything from naming the boat, to attaching the keel, to its eventual launch. So many students and teachers had their hands in helping to complete the miniboat. Our art teacher, Brooke Irimescu, had students design the art that would cover the deck and sail of the boat, while our music teacher, Kathy Leibenow, created a sea shanty with students. It was an amazing cross curricular and arts infused and integrated project.” A group of students from 3rd-5th put the finishing touches on the boat. Madeleine Irimescu, a 5th grader, said, “I liked when I got to drill a hole in the boat for the sensor and it was cool that every grade had a part in creating the boat.” 

     “I enjoyed designing the sail and writing part of the brochure,” her sister Noelle Irimescu said. She was part of the group of 3rd grade students that created the brochure about their school and added information about Charleston, SC to the cargo hold. The hope is that when the boat makes land the finders will get to learn about the Lowcountry and the school responsible for the miniboat. A special guest was added to the cargo hold, a stuffed Chameleon toy, in honor of a former teacher of Howe Hall, Kathy Broughton, who passed in 2020.

    The NOAA Research Vessel Nancy Foster was enlisted to help with the launching of the boat. Junior officer ENS Desda Sisson brought a team to present their research to students as well as brought the SS AIMS InFINity aboard the Nancy Foster for launch. “It’s really cool how we got to build a boat that they actually launched” said Charles Bull, one of the 3rd graders that assisted in the build at Howe Hall.

    After the boat was caught and featured on the tournament’s TV channel, the crew of Shifting Gears released it on Friday, June 16, into the Gulf Stream for its second voyage. Jennifer Dragotta and the community back in Goose Creek are thrilled it will continue on its journey.  “We’re so excited that our miniboat is inspiring new community members and encouraging more people to help students make amazing real world connections with the ocean. We’ll continue following the SS AIMS InFINity’s next journey and begin the process of tracking it with students in the fall.” To read the full story and see what happens next, visit educationalpassages.org/boats/ssaimsinfinity/ and follow other miniboats at sea from educationalpassages.org/events/atsea/.

    About Howe Hall

    Howe Hall Arts Infused Magnet School opened in 2002 as the first magnet school in Berkeley County. The school quickly established its arts philosophy and became a model for arts infusion. Countless educators have visited the school meeting with arts teachers and administrators in their efforts to begin arts schools or replicate the arts infusion philosophy at Howe Hall. 

    Howe Hall AIMS serves 420 kindergarten through fifth grade students who are selected, not by audition, but by lottery from all over Berkeley County. Each year there are over 500 applications for only 40 to 50 openings. If selected to attend the school, transportation to and from school must be provided by the parents.

    AIMS has earned numerous awards and recognitions for excellence in education including being named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2010, recognition by the Kennedy Center for Excellence in Fine Arts Education in 2007, and was presented the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for Arts in Education by Governor Nikki Haley in 2015.  Howe Hall AIMS earned a Palmetto Award every year they have been issued since 2009. Howe Hall AIMS was named an Exemplary School by the Arts Schools Network. The Exemplary School recognition is a five-year designation and is awarded to HHA from 2023-2028.

    About Educational Passages

    Educational Passages is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to connect students around the world to the ocean and each other. Teachers purchase kits with boat parts and supplies, and students build them, fill them with messages and trinkets, install the provided GPS, and send them out to sea to ride the ocean currents and wind. Students follow the track on the miniboat’s very own webpage, and teachers integrate ocean currents, geography, and other topics into their curriculum to connect the miniboat mission. When the boats land, the sticker on them says to bring the boat to a nearby school and connect classrooms. Since 2008, Educational Passages has worked with teachers and students around the world to launch 194 miniboats, reaching over 30 countries to date. 

    For additional information about Educational Passages, please visit www.educationalpassages.org or call 207-619-1259. Social Media links: Facebook @educational.passages Twitter @miniboats Instagram @miniboats

  • June 16, 2023: Relaunched into the Gulf Stream by the crew of Shifting Gears

    The crew on Shifting Gears released the miniboat into the Gulf Stream on June 16:

  • July 2, 2023: Landed and recovered in Cape May, NJ

    The SS AIMS INFINITY took an interesting track after it was launched. It looped a few times, almost landed in the Outer Banks multiple times, and was spotted at sea too.

    June 30, 2023 – The crew on Little Bill spotted the miniboat off the coast of Delaware:

    July 1, 2023 – The miniboat was spotted by Morty and Glenn about 17 miles SE of Indian River Inlet in Delaware. Glenn reported to us that, “It’s approx 17 miles due east of the Indian River inlet. At approximately 11am the boat was about 75 yds from us so we thought we would check it out. We saw it was a project and sent it on its way. On our return trip we saw it about 3 miles away heading towards New Jersey. We didn’t attempt to open it since we were fishing. Just took a picture. Good Luck on the journey.” Here’s the picture they shared:

    Not long after that, it was also spotted at sea by Gurry Dove and his girlfriend. Gurry reported that he was out on his boat, the Panga, fishing during a Flounder Tournament out of Delaware. He noted that, “We didn’t win but had an awesome day trying and now that we know the story of the AIMS it will always be a memorable trip.” Gurry shared some pictures with us too:

    It was spotted a couple other times too, according to messages on a Facebook post. Craig Stocker said “I seen something like this July 1st fishing offshore of Delaware,” and Chris Denham said, “Saw this on Saturday July 1st about 14 miles off cape May.”

    Then, after 15 days at sea, lots of loops, sailing past the Outer Banks, and being spotted at sea many times, the SS Aims Infinity landed on the east end of Cape May Beach, near Poverty Beach in Cape May, NJ on July 2 around 05:00 GMT.

    Lead teacher Jennifer Dragotta from Howe Hall AIMS posted on Cape May Live group on Facebook to see if it could recovered:

    And then Dylan Verrillo and his fiancé Maddie Check successfully recovered it!


    Thanks to Cape May Police Department Sgt Krissinger and the responding Officer for their support as well.

    After later reviewing all the messages that came in (there so much activity all at once that we had a hard time keeping up!) it turns out that someone else spotted the boat on the beach first, Michael and Cindy. They called the number on top, left a message, and continued on their way. We wonder how many people saw the boat on the beach before Dylan and Maddie came across it.

    A relaunch plan is in the works, and it will spend the holiday week Dylan and his family in Cape May.

    The story was featured on July 4 on NJ.COM, Miniboat built by elementary students travels more than 500 miles to Jersey Shore

    July 5, 2023 Update – Dylan posted again on the Cape May Live group to ask for help with the relaunch, and the whole community stepped up to offer their help and support!


3rd Voyage

  • Ocean Science Data from Onboard Sensor System

    The boat has two GPS systems onboard. One is the main GPS, which will report locations to the map at the top of this page. Here below is where you can see the data reporting from the second GPS which is connected to the sensor package. In addition to reporting location with a secondary GPS tracker, this system was also collecting air temperature, water temperature, and orientation.

  • July 18, 2023 - Relaunched off the F/V Betty C

    Thanks to Captain Aaron Moyer of the F/V Betty C, the miniboat was taken back out to sea!

    And check out the latest episode of the AIMS Podcast about the relaunch event:

Please consider supporting Educational Passages and our Miniboat Program. Together we can continue to inspire students, support educators, collect valuable data for ocean science, and connect communities around the world.

Donate now