San Francisco Sailing Science Center
Early Stages of a Non-Profit Science Museum
Presented by: Jim Hancock, President and Founder
The San Francisco Sailing Science Center is a project to create a hands-on, interactive museum, much like San Francisco’s Exploratorium, with 200-300 exhibits which are all about sailing. The museum is being designed to delight and inspire people of all ages. The speaker will discuss the project’s genesis, its mission, who the players are and the overall plan of the project, with special emphasis on the entrepreneurial mindset.
While fluid flow around sails and hull forms are obvious starting points, sailing also reaches myriad other areas of scientific interest including structures, materials science, oceanography, meteorology, navigation, astronomy, mechanical advantage, soil mechanics (anchoring), topology (knots), human factors and even clothing science. One quickly realizes that the target of 200-300 exhibits is going to be a constraint against having too many exhibits, rather than a goal to have enough.
Jim received his Bachelor’s in Ocean Engineering and his Master’s in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering simultaneously at the end of a five-year program at MIT in 1981. After graduation he went directly to work for Exxon Production Research in Houston, where, among other things, he developed early computational fluid dynamic models run on the company’s Cray 1S Supercomputer which had a mind-boggling 16 Mb of memory!
In 1986, as the bottom fell out of the oil market, Jim returned to his home state of California where he continued to develop software, but now as a Windows developer writing utilities for Symantec in the growing “shrink-wrap” software market. This afforded him the income and savings to buy a 39 foot sailboat, and, inspired by a book which his grandfather had given him as a teenager, Jim and his wife Eleanor untied the dock lines in 1999 to set sail on a 6 year, 17,000 nautical mile cruise through the South Pacific.
Returning from their cruise in 2006, Jim found his software development skills to be rusty from too much exposure to saltwater, and so got his captain’s license and certifications as a sailing instructor. Working for Club Nautique, one of the Bay Area’s largest sailing schools, Jim quickly rose from instructor, to School Director, to General Manager, learning all aspects of the business. Leaving Club Nautique in 2010 Jim set out on his own to teach for other schools, do private coaching, new owner training, deliveries and sea trials.
All the while he felt the need for a better classroom and better teaching aids. What he most wanted was a wind tunnel, but with his passion for science he felt anything that could help students gain a better understanding of their boat and the environment would be both interesting and worthwhile. Jim wrote his first business plan in late 2013 for a sailing school that put an outsized emphasis on great teaching aids in the classroom. Lacking a good partner, the idea simmered but never went away. What happened next is the topic of Early Stages of a Non-Profit Science Museum.
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