By Todd Vorenkamp, NESS
Communications & Public Relations Director
When you think of the ultra-high performance 75-foot foiling monohulls of this year’s America’s Cup, does it bring to mind physics education for underserved inner-city middle school students? A new partnership between the New York Yacht Club American Magic Team, Quantum Racing, and the New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS) in Stonington, CT is working to make that connection a reality.
Even when compared to Formula 1 racing, the pinnacle of automotive competition, the America’s Cup is the most stratospheric of stratospheric sports. School-aged students can aspire to be professional athletes, and they can start participating in many sports at an early age. But, when it comes to competitive sailing, the unfortunate reality is that money—and, in the world of America’s Cup competition, a large amount of money—is what is needed to be successful.
With this in mind, avid Farr 40 sailor Alex Roepers connected NESS President & CEO Spike Lobdell with Doug DeVos of the Quantum Racing and American Magic teams. Lobdell proposed weaving the amazing technology of today’s America’s Cup racing into new and innovative NESS STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses for students who do not have access to sailing, much less the racing at the pinnacle of the sport. Asking, “How can Quantum, the American Magic Team, and NESS infuse sailing and ocean-based STEM instruction into every classroom before, during, and after the America’s Cup campaign?” Lobdell found a warm reception with DeVos.
Following the inception of the partnership, NESS immediately started working on the educational infrastructure of the program and is creating exciting experiential online STEM courses that bring American Magic’s technology into the classroom for all students. According to Lobdell, “The purpose of the partnership is to engage all learners, including underserved students and those for whom these experiences may be otherwise unobtainable, in STEM-based ocean and sailing adventure by creating and implementing a blended virtual and live suite of learning experiences. As the first New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC)-accredited school partner program, we have the ability to translate and package the work by the Quantum and American Magic teams across STEM disciplines—the very core of what is needed to win the Cup—into our NESS curriculum targeted primarily at middle and high school students.”
Quantum Racing coach Tom Burnham says, “It’s a pretty exciting thing that we can share the data, information, and things that we’ve learned through our sailing at Quantum Racing and with our partnership with American Magic to create some new content to help these kids learn science. It’s a really exciting project and we are really happy to be working with the NESS Team and to be developing these programs.”
Quantum’s Ed Baird, an America’s Cup-winning skipper, says, “[The partnership with NESS] is right up our alley and, of course, you never know where the next world champion is coming from!” To see a preview of the program, please visit nessf.org/online/. ■