Former BMS teacher to cross the Pacific

Former Barone Middle School math teacher Rory Wilson in his custom-designed Kevlar and fiberglass kite and rowing vessel, KROS — kite, row, ocean, solar.
It was in 2006 that math teacher Rory Wilson began to build a boat that was strong enough to drag around, shallow and light enough to get into places other boats cannot, and strong enough to run with an ocean storm. Six years later, Wilson is ready to complete a solo passage across the Pacific Ocean in a small, custom boat that uses kite sails and rowing for power.
Wilson was living in Colorado at the time he began to build his custom Kevlar and fiberglass, epoxy composite, custom kite and rowing vessel, which he named KROS — kite, row, ocean, solar. Additionally, Wilson admits, “I love the water, but my overall goal is to encourage others to innovate, apply skills, and achieve results.” And along the way, Wilson guided students to provide amazing innovations.
Starting his design, he considered the hull and hull lines, the rudder, aerodynamic topsides to minimize wind resistance, what the displacement would be, how kite sails would propel him, as well as composite balanced oars for rowing, and more. His goals and activities were innately science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) before that acronym was widely used to capture the excitement of learning within real life applications of these curricula.
As Wilson continued working on the vessel in 2007, applying his passion for teaching engaged students in project-based learning. “Of course there were math applications in creating the kites.” And among other innumerable elements of the production process, he considered how he would light the vessel, produce cabin heat, design the cockpit cover, store batteries and create solar components.
In May 2008, students at Barone Middle School in Meeker, Colo., completed initial labs with solar and wind energy as combined math science projects.
It was that year that Wilson took a job at Bainbridge High School and moved to Washington, where he conducted his initial Pacific launch with rowing and kite tests.
Before traveling out to sea for open ocean trials in 2009, modifications were made. Notably, a custom cockpit cover was designed to provide storm and weather protection during rowing, and additional and larger kites were added. Bainbridge High School student involvement and innovation were close behind as they created and modified solar panels, which Wilson incorporated into KROS. The 2009 open ocean trial took him 150 miles through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and off shore before he returned back to Port Townsend.
Math students also analyzed the kite design, and they determined other real-life math applications: knowing the energy needed to row and live at sea, students calculated the total calories needed each day, then how much food. KROS was designed to carry six months of supplies, and students verified the volume and weights required. In 2011, students worked on and tested new solar panels and the 15-foot wide delta wing kites that are used for downwind sailing. “This project has captured student innovation again and again,” noted Wilson.
If innovation, skills and results were goals, “math students experienced them all: solar energy design; wind-kite propulsion; composites engineering with fiberglass/Kevlar; navigation, vectors and trigonometry; and power conversions,” explained Wilson. This, in part, may explain why Wilson received the 2012 Excellence in Mathematics Education Award from the regional Educational Service District, which recognizes his contribution to mathematics education in our region and for making a difference in the lives of his students.
Not lacking in careful design, testing and execution, Wilson is also physically prepared to leave San Diego for the first leg of his 2,700 mile solo attempt to kite and row to Hawaii, departing in September this year. Although he has resigned his position at BHS, he will continue to involve students and teachers as he shares information with them along the way.
If successful, the boat will be the first “kite and oar-powered” craft to complete a long distance ocean passage.