Micah! Micah! Micah! Let’s all do a cheer for Micah with the “BOAT” (Bus for Outdoor Access & Teaching). Micah believes that the outdoors is a vehicle for helping people figure out how to make a better world together… and we agree. Come meet Micah and take a walk through the BOAT at STEAMFest – show what you know about maps, build a lego campsite based on Leave No Trace principles, play with Mr. Bones, take a family survival challenge, practice pooping in the woods (no real poop, promise), and get any and all questions about the G-R-E-A-T outdoors answered.
What do you do with your awesome self?
I run BOAT! It’s not actually a BOAT, it’s the “Bus for Outdoor Access & Teaching.” We’ve converted a big, red, full-size school bus into a fully functional wilderness program. We drive across Colorado running expeditions for kids and adults, providing outdoor education where people actually live, and helping organizations get to hard-to-reach outdoor places.
How did you get started? Who or what influenced you?
I wish there was a “lightbulb moment,” but really it was just a lot of work. My team started asking educators what made it hard to get outside, we analyzed budgets, we did a lot of just-good-enough paper napkin math, and a fair amount of logistical analysis (i.e. looking where things went and where to pull of a trip). We learned a few things – transportation is a huge barrier, people want access to outdoor spaces where they actually live (cities!), and a bus has enough cubic feet of storage to carry enough camping equipment for everyone inside – with some modifications.
What was one bit of information you wished you know before you started?
The structural and electrical architecture of a bus, for starters! Welding, metalwork, the impacts of vibrations on nuts and bolts – that kind of stuff. We knew we could run an outdoor program, and we knew we could drive a bus, but putting them together has had some challenges!
Where do you see yourself and your making going in the next 3 to 5 years?
The idea behind the bus is that it’s a more affordable, more accessible way for organizations to get outside. A lot of outdoor programs run on a traditional model where families or individuals have to get to their base of operations, have the gear, and so on. We’ve tactically removed a lot of barriers – both logistical and economic – and that means our programs are a fraction of the cost of a traditional outdoor program. So what does the future look like? Hopefully more busses, more people getting outside, and making it a lot easier along the way. Last year we got 400 people out on trips and reached over 7,000 through education programs – we’d like to see those numbers get a lot bigger.
What do you wish you could make or do, but don’t know how to (yet)?
My kingdom for another bus! I don’t think we’ll ever make the perfect one, but we learned a lot the first time around – I don’t know how to make every piece of it, but I’ve got a lot of ideas (as soon as I get this welding thing down).
What’s your favorite part about the STEAM movement?
I’m going to go a bit off message here, but I think it’s the element of creativity and critical thinking – I love the outdoors, but getting people outside at BOAT isn’t the real end goal. Like BOAT itself, the outdoors is a vehicle for helping people figure out how to make a better world together. You learn a lot about what it means to take care of each other on a camping trip – the creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and care for others that comes from our programs is the real goal, and something much needed in society both today and always.
What part of STEAM Fest are you most excited for?
All the people! Sure, we’re showing off the bus and teaching but really the best part for us is getting to meet all the folks coming by, seeing their ideas, sharing tips, tricks, and hikes, and letting the younger ones sit in the driver’s seat. It’s such a great community in attendance!
We’re revamping our event set up, so you’ll have to see – you can count on a chance to show what you know about maps, build a lego campsite based on Leave No Trace principles, play with Mr. Bone’s, take a family survival challenge, practice pooping in the woods (no real poop, promise), and get any and all questions about the outdoors answered (or at least we’ll try!). We’ll also be showing you the insides of some popular outdoor clothing, so you can learn how they work!
What’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever told you about what you do?
Honestly, people tend to think that what we do is pretty crazy. I’ve studied wolves and been chased by a bear and struck by lightning. But what I remind people is all those “crazy” things actually means we made a big mistake – the goal of getting outside is to do so safely enough you can come back and do it again later, so it’s the times we have fun but things don’t get toooo crazy that are the best.
What’s your advice to young peeps interested in learning more about STEAM?
When you’re young, the way consequences work out can be a pretty sweet deal. The consequences of taking time to learn, grow, try something new, or break a rule no one knew they needed to have are huge – I still regularly rely on skills, science, and knowledge I picked up before I graduated high school, every day. At the same time, the consequences of bad choices and mistakes are – relatively speaking – pretty small. You can take big risks, and the odds are in your favor. The older you get, the more that seems to invert, so take advantage! Plus remember that while older folks may have more experience than you, they aren’t necessarily smarter. It’s always worth listening to older folks in your life – but you can go your own way and it still might end up better.