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Brien McMahon Student Names New Research Boat At Norwalk Aquarium

Brien McMahon High School sophomore Kiara Valazquez recently won the contest for naming the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk's new vessel.
Brien McMahon High School sophomore Kiara Valazquez recently won the contest for naming the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk's new vessel. Photo Credit: Contributed

NORWALK, Conn. -- Brien McMahon High School sophomore Kiara Valazquez got into the spirit of the contest and won the grand prize in naming the new vessel at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

The new hybrid-powered research vessel will be named R/V Spirit of the Sound. The name was chosen out of 315 suggestions from Norwalk school students in the contest. Kiara Velazquez won the contest’s grand prize.

“We love the name and the liberated image it suggests,” said Jennifer Herring, the aquarium’s president. “It will be our job to help every student and every adult who comes aboard for an aquarium program out on Long Island Sound to feel the spirit of the Sound and carry it with them long after they step off the boat.”

The aquarium’s $2.7 million, 65-foot catamaran is expected to make its debut in late spring. It has a hybrid electric propulsion system, which will reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 75 percent. The new boat will have a climate-controlled indoor classroom and an outdoor research space with total capacity of 65, more than twice that of the Aquarium’s current 40-foot boat.

The $2.6 million, 65-foot catamaran is being built at the Robert E. Derecktor Inc. shipyard in Mamaroneck, N.Y. It was designed by Incat Crowther of Australia.

Kiara won a free outing aboard the R/V Spirit of the Sound for her immediate family and a free IMAX movie screening for one of her classes at Brien McMahon.

Kiara said she was familiar with boating on the Sound and with The Maritime Aquarium and its educational programs. In elementary school, her class took part in a study cruise aboard the aquarium’s current research vessel, Oceanic, and she often fished on the Sound with her grandfather. She is enrolled in the training class to become an aquarium volunteer.

The Maritime Aquarium’s “Name the Boat” contest was open to Norwalk school students in Grades 3 to 12. The major contributors toward the boat supported the contest, only asking that the word “Spirit” be in the boat’s name.

Jordan Good, also a sophomore at Brien McMahon, was chosen as a contest runner-up, winning a guided aquarium tour for her school class, and also a free aquarium visit for up to 10 family members and friends.

“The Maritime Aquarium’s new, state-of-the-art research vessel will be a wonderful addition to the region’s educational resources,” said Bill Tommins, Southern Connecticut market president for Bank of America. “The ‘floating classroom’ will expand opportunities for students and the public to explore local marine life and deepen appreciation for our great natural resource, the Long Island Sound.”

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