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SPLASH Founder, Dr. Bart Hoebel (1935 - 2011)

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Reflections from Bart's Family 

"My father was most well-known for his contributions to the scientific community as a leading neuroscientist and professor at Princeton University, but he was an adventurer and inventor at heart. He loved building things, especially things that would help serve people, and this always led to great adventures. His Steamboat and floating classroom 'SPLASH' gave my father so much joy. He reveled in the conception and building of it, the testing and maiden voyage, the crew he called family, and teaching on it to the kids and adults. My father
put a lot of love into the boat and it gave back so many unforgettable adventures and memories. He always had a twinkle in his eye when he was working on or talking about SPLASH. I truly hope others get as much enjoyment from the steamboat SPLASH as my father did...that was his wish"- Brett Hoebel

“He will always be held with absolute joy in my heart. I’m so proud to be his daughter.” - Cary Lane

“He was such a fun, loving, supportive, dedicated, father, and he always inspired us to ‘do what you love'. The steamboat and its floating classroom are the result of my dad doing a combination of all the things he loved to do."– Val

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Working with Bart on SPLASH

To work with Bart was to be witness to intentional, determined, and thoughtful action. He wouldn’t let small things dissipate his momentum and this was important considering what lay ahead. He would think of important things that had been overlooked and then
he would incorporate them into his plans and actions with hardly anyone noticing-- until “suddenly” there was the result staring at you. Bart cared about people, places, ideas and-- yes- things. Thus was born SPLASH. This “thing” was an idea incorporating just about everything Bart found interesting in life.


Think about someone who cared about brain research and how that knowledge could be helpful to people, or his determination to do something about the Vietnam war and for the environment. He became a founding member of a local peace movement got involved in environmental issues. But then there was the other Bart. The Bart of farm tractors, fire engines, calliopes, hot air balloons, hang-gliding, skiing, family, friends and
Christmas tree farming.

Into this mix he bought an idea that had captured his imagination. He was foremost a teacher down to his bones and began to think what fun it would be to have a real steamboat. When a friend suggested that perhaps he should consider a big steamboat that would carry students on learning adventures, he just couldn’t resist.

A few personal recollections:
“Hey Bart we left off the lock washer.” Bart later told me that from then on we would be very careful about that ---unless, of course, we didn’t have the right size washer and we really needed to get this done ---now!

I think the following story appealed to Bart partly because it was a story of persistence and courage coming from someone like Fitch. This story inspired the famous - (in the context of SPLASH history)- Lincoln (a.k.a. Bart), refereed debate, between Fitch (a.k.a. Bob Schuster) and Fulton (a.k.a. Pete Burns) The debate was about who should take credit for what turned out to be the greatest American invention of the century. Fitch’s idea of putting a steam engine into a riverboat was radical since all steam engines up to this time were very big and heavy and required large boilers. At the time we were not very friendly with Great Britain –having just had a war with them---so they were not interested in sharing their experience with steam engine technology. Fitch was able to figure out how to achieve better power at reduced weight thus making George Washington’s dream of opening up vast areas of the country, which at that time were only accessible by rivers, a reality. The problem was that going down stream was easy ---going up stream was really, really hard. Regarding Fulton: It wasn’t until years later that Fulton started steaming on the Hudson but only after some astute political maneuvering and a fair amount of “observing” Fitch’s work that got him a franchise from the interested states. So like Fitch, Bart took on a really big idea and kept on plugging away at it
until it surrendered. Bob Schuster, SPLASH Electrical Engineer. Astro Space Division of RCA (ret.)

“I really do miss Bart - he was one of those Princeton characters who make living here so enjoyable - a person with a mission, a great attitude, and someone who lived each day to the fullest.”
Michael Littman
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Princeton University

More about Bart Hoebel’s scientific career here.

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