It's official, the Science Barge is setting sail in Miami. The floating laboratory, classroom and tourist attraction was granted $298,633 as part of the nationwide Knight Cities Challenge competition.
Submitted by nonprofit CappSci (a science innovation organization), the barge was one of 32 "civic innovators" to be granted an award in the latest round of giving, and the aquatic attraction aims to be up and running by early next year.
CappSci was founded by Ted Caplow, the creator of the original Science Barge in NYC. He and his team, including Director of Innovation Nathalie Manzano-Smith, will be bringing the barge to fruition, along with lots of local partners and participants.
The project will focus on the environment, creating a sustainable food supply and collecting data on the local ecosystem.
There'll be an on-site marine innovation lab, plus restoration, ecological systems, citizen science and technology programs offering lots of hands-on opportunities for students and researchers. The public will have the chance to tour the barge as well.
Right now, the team is working on finalizing a location, as well as getting their hands on a barge to build from.
"We are in the process of negotiating with a group in Fort Lauderdale that owns the barge that we really want," says Manzano-Smith. "We'll get there—we really need to secure a barge, and our goal is the end of April."
Once the barge is acquired, they plan to anchor it in a temporary location along the Miami River. From there, they'll begin construction and wait for the permitting process to play out.
"The main hurdles going forward are permitting; that can be a dicey little area," says Manzano-Smith. "We hope it's well received and that they understand it's an educational project — that's what it's geared towards. So hopefully they're willing to work with us and kind of help us along."
In addition to the Knight money, they received another grant from the Allen Family Foundation.
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"We're still in the process of writing additional grants," Manzano-Smith says. "Knight will get us to the barge opening and then I will continue to fundraise to make sure we have the operational costs. We'd really like to make this project free — we want to make sure everybody has access to the program."
As far as the long term, they'd love to be in Museum Park, Manzano-Smith says.
"We're working to make that happen. Then once the permitting is done we'll be able to officially plant the barge there and open up for business."