Our Founder, Bart Hoebel
Thoughts About Bart
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 science and how that knowledge could be helpful to people, or his determination to do something about the threat of nuclear war and the environment. He became a founding member of a local anti war movement and 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 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!
Bart was interested in demonstrating to students how important cooperation was to everyone’s benefit. He built a model water distribution system to illustrate, through hands on participation, how the water needs of various communities could be satisfied by everyone working together sharing water through mutually agreed upon flow management procedures. His idea was to demonstrate that aboard SPLASH as part of the “three rotations lesson plan”. However the model was quite large and assembling and disassembling it before and after each trip became a problem so it didn’t remain in the lesson repertoire. But it was a great idea and, who knows, maybe it will have a comeback in a more convenient form.
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 a fun debate at a school between Fitch (played by Bob Schuster and Fulton (played by Pete Burns). The debate was refereed by Abraham Lincoln, played by founder Bart Hoebel. The debate was about who should take credit for what turned out to be the greatest American invention of the century.
Fitche’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 area’s 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.
"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."
“He will always be held with absolute joy in my heart. I’m so proud to be his daughter."
Cary (Hoebel) Lane
“He was such a fun, loving, supportive, dedicated, father, and he always inspired us to ‘do what you love.' The steamboat and it's floating classroom are the result of my dad doing a combination of all the things he loved to do."
"Bart was a Professor at Princeton, that in itself is an honor. Bart was humble, you would never guess that he had all those degrees and prestige; he seemed like a regular guy. He treated everyone with respect and listened to our suggestions. He worked hard, got dirty, and did more work than anyone else. He was great guy to work with and I miss him dearly."
Bob Schuster, SPLASH Mate