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Kickstarter voyage: Smooth sailing all the way

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bayfront Maritime Center’s (BMC) Captain Jamie Trost and Mercyhurst University intelligence studies associate professor Kristan Wheaton recently returned from the Quebec International Tall Ships Conference where they shared their Kickstarter success story of the Gunboat Schooner Porcupine.

Last fall, the BMC launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 toward recreating the War of 1812 Gunboat Schooner Porcupine as a floating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classroom. The online fundraising campaign was organized through Mercyhurst University’s Quickstarter initiative headed by Wheaton and funded by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority’s Ignite Erie: Industry-University Business Acceleration Collaborative, led by Mercyhurst and Penn State Behrend.

The Porcupine project was successfully funded at 263 percent of its goal with 175 backers pledging $13,177.

“This success was largely due to extensive preparations, realistic goals, and focusing on a compelling story,” Wheaton said.

The compelling story began when an Ohio couple heard about the important work being done at BMC with inner city and underserved youth who are struggling to succeed in school, and donated the hull and 85 HP marine diesel engine and other equipment.

As a school ship, the Porcupine will present students with math and engineering exercises in the best hands-on classroom possible – a Tall Ship! The recreated Porcupine will offer classes that spark student ingenuity and foster teamwork, uniquely bringing together history, sailing and the growing field of STEM.

At the conference, Trost and Wheaton detailed their formula for success as well as lessons learned from the campaign while offering insights on how Kickstarter can work for other organizations.