Ten Students Advance to National Geographic Bee Finals

Jennifer Vernon
for National Geographic News
May 25, 2004

Winners from the National Geographic Bee state-level competitions held this past April gathered in Washington, D.C., today to compete for a total of U.S. $50,000 in scholarships at the 16th annual National Geographic Bee finals.

Ranging in age from 10 to 15, these fifth through eighth graders demonstrated their knowledge of world politics, cultures, history, and geography, advancing from among five million participants to this year's finals.

The first round of competition, held earlier today at the District of Columbia's downtown Wyndham City hotel, culled 55 state, territory, and Department of Defense Dependent School winners down to 10 finalists. The finalists each won U.S. $500 and a spot in tomorrow's championship round. They are:

Eric Liaw, Hawaii
Yangbo Du, Illinois
Mattias Gassman, Iowa
Andrew Wojtanik, Kansas
Thimal de Alwis, Louisiana
Matthew Wells, Montana
Gautham Senthilkumar, Ohio
Christopher Chesny, Oklahoma
Cory Sweers, Washington State
Bo Sun, Wisconsin

(For more details on the finalists, see below.)

The championship round will kick off tomorrow at 10 a.m. at National Geographic Society headquarters and will once again be moderated by Jeopardy! quiz show host Alex Trebek.

Produced in partnership with Maryland Public Television, the championship round will be televised by the National Geographic Channel in the United States and aired later on public television channels around the country.

For the first-place winner, National Geographic will award a U.S. $25,000 scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. Second-year corporate sponsor ING will provide the winner with a one-week trip to a Sea World/Busch Gardens Adventure Camp. The second-place and third-place winners will receive scholarships worth U.S. $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, from National Geographic.

Last year's champion, eighth grader James Williams from Washington state, clinched his victory with the correct answer to the following question: Goa, a state in southwestern India, was a possession of which country until 1961? (Answer: Portugal.)

2004 National Geographic Bee
Top Ten Finalists


Eric Liaw, Hawaii
Eric is a 12-year-old sixth grader at Punahou Junior High School in Honolulu. He represented Hawaii in the 2003 National Geographic Bee. Eric plays the piano, violin, and trumpet and likes tennis and karate. If he could be anyone in the world, the sixth grader says he'd like to be oceanographer and explorer Robert Ballard.

Yangbo Du, Illinois
Yangbo is a 14-year-old eighth grader at Dunlap Middle School in Dunlap, central Illinois. He's been interested in geography since he was three, and enjoys its physical and economic aspects. Yangbo says the best place he's visited is San Francisco, California, and notes that he would like to visit Europe's historic sites.

Mattias Gassman, Iowa
Mattias is a homeschooled 14-year-old eighth grader from Ames. He enjoys reading, bike riding, swimming, and playing computer and board games. Mattias says the best place he's been is London, England, and that he'd like to visit Italy and Crete to see their ancient ruins. His interest in geography began when he was six.

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