Photograph by Rebecca Hale

Read Caption

Students compete in this year's National Geographic Bee preliminary round.

Photograph by Rebecca Hale

National Geographic Bee Finalists Face Off Today

A "tough" preliminary round in this year's National Geographic Bee included seven tie-breakers—an unusually high number, organizers said.

Ten finalists emerged Tuesday during a "tough" preliminary round of the National Geographic Bee, which included seven tie breaker questions—an unusually high number, said "GeoBee" director Mary Lee Elden.

"They're top-notch students who are excited, and we can't wait to see what they can do on stage," Elden said.

The ten students will face off Wednesday during the final round of the Bee, being held at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

For the 2010 Bee, Elden and organizers asked students to post videos of themselves on an interactive YouTube map, a first for the National Geographic Bee. "They can be role models for other students—here are normal students who are doing great things with their knowledge of the world," Elden said.

National Geographic also announced a "GeoBee Challenge" mobile application for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, which will allow users to test their geography knowledge with questions from past National Geographic Bees. The application will be available in a few months, Elden said.

Smart and Curious a Winning Bee Combo

Jeopardy! TV host and Bee final-round moderator Alex Trebek said that such online resources are among the reasons that National Geographic Bee contestants seem to be getting smarter every year.

"Kids who are smart and are curious have a big advantage," Trebek told National Geographic News as he walked to the preliminary round in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. (See "Hardest National Geographic Bee Yet Goes to 13-Year-Old." [2009].)

"Particularly the curiosity, because they now have the tools to satisfy their curiosity—[to] get on Google or the Internet to find out whatever you need to know very quickly." (Google is sponsoring the Bee for the second year in a row.)

Trebek added that he recently looked through old school papers and discovered geography was his best subject in high school. "I come by my interest legitimately if you will—I'm not a parvenu," he said.

Ten Finalists to Vie for GeoBee Title

The National Geographic Bee was founded in 1989 in response to the perceived lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the U.S. (See the results of a 2006 survey of geographic literacy in the U.S.)

This year a combined total of nearly five million fifth- to eighth-grade students vied for spots in the national championships during bees held in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

As in past years, the 54 National Geographic Bee state-level winners—including one girl—competed as semifinalists. (See "Girl Wins Geographic Bee—First in 17 Years." [2007].)

The ten winners who will compete in the final round are Aadith Moorthy from Florida, Pranav Bhandarkar from Georgia, Karthik Mouli from Idaho, Stefan Petrovic from Kansas, Abhinav Kurada from Massachusetts, Oliver Lucier from Rhode Island, Anthony Cheng from Utah, James Stiff from Virginia, Andrew Braun from West Virginia, and Vansh Jain from Wisconsin.

The winner will get a U.S. $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a trip to the Galápagos Islands. (See pictures of Galápagos animals.)

Trebek Sees "Adults in Small Bodies"

This is Trebek's 22nd year hosting the event, and—along with the "free airfare" from California, he quipped—it's his love of geography and working with kids that keep him coming back. The host noted that he doesn't condescend to the kids, treating them as "adults in small bodies."

"I don't think most people have a true understanding of what geography is," Trebek added. "They don't realize that it's part of our everyday lives—[even] driving to work is a geographic experience."