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The Story of  "Coastie"  
 

Below is information on the development of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary's "Coastie The Safety Boat" Youth Education, Boating, and Water Safety Program. These excerpts are from an article written by Coastie's Dad, Mike Robeano, 8th Eastern District, Division 18, Flotilla 6.
Coastie was created after observing a similar robot called PC, which stands for Police Car. Our United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGAux) Flotilla was participating in a "Safety Day" event at a local shopping center when we had the opportunity to observe PC. I was most impressed by the way the children were drawn to this little remote control robotic cartoon character. It was at this moment that the idea of Coastie was created and I went right to work trying to find a source of funding to acquire a robotic boat. I contacted the manufacturer, Robotronics, and to my amazement, found they had such a product; a robotic boat called "BOBBY" The Boat! I negotiated with the manufacturer to test a demo unit for evaluation in schools and public affairs events. They were able to supply a unit and the first Coastie was born.
Coastie was acquired through an $8,616.00 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Watercraft (check out their link on Coastie's Friends page). However, while waiting for the grant to be approved, we continued our efforts to test the concept by visiting elementary schools and putting on Boating and Water Safety presentations with the demo robot. There are many companies and organizations that would gladly sponsor a Coastie if given the opportunity to help save lives through this fantastic program. The current cost of a fully outfitted Coastie is about $9, 500.00 depending on options.
Our first Public Affairs event was a major local Boat Show where Coastie's positive impact on public interaction and teaching Boating and Water Safety to children made the event an incredible success. Without question, both the USCGAux and Ohio DNR, Division of Watercraft are dedicating their "Team Education" efforts to Boating Safety by using Coastie to instruct in concert with other local agencies. For example, the "Safety City Program" put on by the Red Cross just loves Coastie, and he is one of their biggest stars. All these programs involve visiting schools and instructing children on how to be safe around boats and the water. Coastie's involvement has made the robot a huge success almost overnight. Consequently, he has been in great demand in Central Ohio and beyond.
Coastie is an animated robotic cartoon character in appearance, and is very mobile. He has navigation and searchlights, a rotating beacon, a siren, an air horn, and eyes and eyelids that move meaningfully. He talks, plays music, and interacts with the instructor and the children during the presentation. He even has a bilge pump that pumps water like a real boat; that always brings smiles and laughter to all when used. Coastie also has his own built in squirt gun that the kids just love. Coastie is 44 inches long, 30 inches wide, 45 inches tall and weighs about 120 lb., -- quite a bit larger than most would imagine. He is painted bright blue and has decals promoting Boating and Water Safety from many boating safety organizations. He flies five colorful flags: the United States Ensign, Coast Guard Operational Flag, Coast Guard Auxiliary Ensign, and the Flag of the State of Ohio, along with a Flag denoting boating safety on one side and water safety on the other. He has his own infrared remote CD player to improve his music selection capability.
Coastie teaches rules about what to do and not do in a water emergency situation. For instance, Coastie teaches "Reach or Throw But Never Go In". (You can see some of what Coastie teaches by trying his quiz at Coastie's Boating and Water Safety Quiz.) This message along with interaction and instruction with Coastie teaches children how to throw or reach something to a person who is in trouble in the water rather than going in to try to save him. He also teaches slogans that kids remember like "Don't Just Pack It! Wear Your Life Jacket!" and "Always Swim With A Buddy In A Supervised Area.". Coastie also has his own Boating Safety Jingle, which was written by two elementary students. When you hear the tune we defy you to not tap your feet and dance around the room. Musicians and vocalists along with three young persons recorded this jingle at a professional studio. The Jingle shares the same messages that we teach in our program. The jingle is played through Coastie's cassette player or CD sound system, depending on how he is equipped.
This program has already educated thousands of children since it was started in 1996 and interacted with children and their parents at Boat Shows, Schools, Parades and Hospitals all over the Columbus, Ohio area. Coastie has visited other cities such as Marietta, and Dayton, Ohio, Washington DC, Chicago, and St. Louis. He has even gone to Pittsburgh 1997 -1998 for the Tri City Regatta and Parade. One of Coastie's most recent educational programs that has also become an annual event is the Defense Logistic Agency, Summer Family Fun Festival Day, in Columbus, Ohio. The interaction is always very worthwhile at this event. The bottom line for Coastie is "Education and Saving Lives" while sharing the boating and water safety message with everyone he contacts. Coastie's Team motto is "Saving Lives Through Education".
Coastie's monthly visits to Children's Hospital Columbus are so very heart warming. He visits each floor and enters each patient's room cheering up sick, injured and, in one extreme case, a child whose greatest wish was to be a firefighter but whose life expectancy did not permit that wish to be realized. Coastie has a magical power with children. (See some of the stories in Coastie's Scrapbook.)Even adults fall in love with him. The Nurses tell us that Coastie has a wonderful effect on the children. Smiles and laughter are everywhere. The parents thank us again and again for bringing a smile to their children's faces. Coastie continues his visits to Children's Hospital once a month to continue this very worthwhile humanitarian effort.
Our little robot has been requested to teach "Boating and Water Safety" at many schools throughout the Columbus area for the National Red Cross Safety City Program. (See Coastie's Schedule for some of his events.) Each school year, there are over 100 scheduled presentations with boating and water safety education as one of the primary safety topics. Our Coastie Team has donated over thousands of hours of volunteer time to the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and this very worthwhile educational program. Our Team also includes a dedicated member of the ODNR, Division of Watercraft.
We are presently training more instructors to present water safety classes and operate Coastie. Although the Coastie concept of Boating & Water Safety Education for children has only been around Central Ohio for four years, we feel that this relatively new concept and character using this interactive educational instruction has been very successful. The program has now developed into a nationwide effort for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and is under the guidance of the Auxiliary's "National Department of Boating". Together our goal is to develop this program into another one of the Auxiliary's outstanding success stories. When we started, we envisioned Coastie as the Boating and Water Safety Education's National Ambassador for the Coast Guard Auxiliary; that dream is now becoming a reality. The key to Coastie's success is his capability to interact with the children and instructors. Using that capability we can save lives through interactive education. Coastie's personality and the fact that he can talk and hear, maintains the children's attention. This is another reason why he is so successful.
Coastie is fostering partnerships with other organizations throughout the country.. There are now ten Coastie's in service within the Auxiliary: Westerville, Marietta, and Lima Ohio; Boston, MA; Jacksonville, FL; Scarsdale, NY; and Anchorage, Alaska. Why, the Eighth Coast Guard District HQ. has acquired three Coastie's: one each for New Orleans, LA; Louisville, KY, and St. Louis, MO. Soon to follow will be a Coastie in Huntington, WV which will be Coastie number eleven.
What else can Coastie do for the Auxiliary? Coastie can raise funds needed to improve the Auxiliary's Public Education Programs. We have already developed a Coastie Beanie Boat, Life Jackets for Children with Coastie's logo and slogans, and the Coastie Jingle cassette tape with some wonderful stories and adventures of Coastie. There are Coastie baseball caps and T-shirts being designed and Coastie helium balloons, and the list goes on and on! These marketing items can bring in the needed funds to support Coastie and improve our Public Education Programs across the country, as Districts everywhere launch Coasties in support of Boating and Water Safety Education for Children. Our Instructor Teams now have special Coastie uniforms, which include an embroidered baseball cap and matching shirt with the Coastie and Auxiliary logos, our slogan and the instructor's name. These outfits are colorful and are more easily received by the children. Public Affairs is another positive application for Coastie as he participates in many community events putting the Coast Guard and Auxiliary in the spotlight. Children from all over Columbus, Ohio know Coastie from many events. When they see him they shout, "COASTIE! COASTIE! Remember Me! Billy, from Mark Twain Elementary Safety City"
Statistics from all over the country show that tragically, hundreds of children, who could have been saved, drown each year in water related accidents! If we can save the life of one child through this interactive educational program, then its cost is immeasurably small in relationship to the value of a child's life.
Coastie has received four Awards during 1998 and 1999. His first award in 1998 was at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit held in Hollywood Florida. This award, the Award of Merit, was from the National Water Safety Congress. During the 1999 Summit held in Albuquerque New Mexico, Coastie received the National Safe Boating Council's, Southern Regional Advancement Award that placed the program in competition for the National Award. Coastie competed with other outstanding Youth Education programs and was unanimously voted the 1999 National Award winner. At the same event Coastie received the National Water Safety Congress Eastern Regional Award for outstanding program accomplishment. Coastie leads the nation as the number one Youth Boating and Water Safety Education Program.
Coastie has become a wonderful Ambassador for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Coast Guard. So, why not include your District, Division, or Flotilla as part of the National Coastie The Safety Boat Team? If you're looking for something new that's a whole lot of fun and very worthwhile then join us in our effort to Educate Children and Save Lives! If you already have a Coastie, then Welcome Aboard!