Six out of Top Ten Finalists in 2017 National Geographic Bee are of Indian Origin

Championship round with top award of $50,000 will be held May 17 in the nation’s capital

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, May 15, 2017 – Indian-American children are on a roll: In the championship round of the 29th annual National Geographic Bee coming up this week, six out of the top ten contestants are middle school students of Indian origin.

The whiz kids are: Ahilan Eraniyan of California; Rohan Kanchana of Delaware; Abhinav Govindaraju of New Hampshire; Veda Bhattaram of New Jersey; Pranay Varada of Texas; and Anish Susarla of Virginia.

It is no mean achievement that for five consecutive years, Indian-American students have won the prestigious National Geographic Bee and now they constitute 60 percent of the finalists heading to the 2017 championship event on Wednesday, at the Washington Plaza Hotel. Among the other top ten contestants are: Max Garon of the District of Columbia; Nicholas Monahan of Idaho; Lucas Eggers of Minnesota; and Thomas Wright of Wisconsin.

At stake is a chance to win one of three college scholarships totaling 85,000 dollars. The first place finisher will bag the top award of 50,000 dollars, the title of National Geographic Bee Champion, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society including a subscription to the National Geographic magazine, and an all-expenses-paid expedition to the Galapago Islands aboard the new National Geographic Endeavour II.

Second and third place winners will receive 25,000 dollars and 10,000 dollars, respectively. Following the preliminary round which was held on Monday morning, each of the top ten winners were awarded 500 dollars.

A total of 54 state bee winners, 21 of Indian origin, who participated in the preliminary were selected from a pool of over 4,600 students in grades four through eight. It is noteworthy that the original pool comprised 2.6 million students from more than 10,000 schools in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, Union Territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools. The figures are staggering when one considers that out of this original pool of millions, only ten have advanced to the Championship round.

The competition, also known as the Nat Geo Bee, is an annual geography contest open to students ages 10 to 14, organized by the National Geographic Society. It is tough and challenging, but also entertaining and very impressive! The aim is to inspire and reward children for their knowledge and curiosity about the world.

“National Geographic is committed to furthering global understanding to ensure that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global awareness”, says Gary Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society. “The National Geographic Bee expands students’ knowledge of our changing planet, critical species and spaces and the human story and fosters a lifelong love of learning and exploration, turning today’s competitors into tomorrow’s leaders”.

The competition has been held every year since 1989 and in recent times, Indian-American kids have been crowned winners.

Indian-American whiz kids win the 2016 National Geographic Bee with Rishi Nair, 12, declared the champion, followed by Saketh Jonnalagadda, 14, in second place, and Kapil Nathan, 12, in third position. Photo credit: Carol Woodward / National Geographic

Rishi Nair, 12, of Florida won the 2016 National Geographic Bee; second and third place winners were Saketh Jonnalagadda, 14, of Massachusetts, and Kapil Nathan, 12, of Alabama, respectively.

Among other recent National Champions are Karan Menon of New Jersey (2015), Akhil Rekulapelli of Virginia (2014), Sathwik Karnik of Massachusetts (2013) and Rahul Nagvekar of Texas (2012).

About the Indian-American kids who will be competing in the 2017 National Geographic Bee: Ahilan Eraniyan is in sixth grade at Diablo Vista Middle School, Danville; Rohan Kanchana is in eighth grade at Newark Charter School; Abhinav Govindaraju is in seventh grade at Ross A Lurgio Middle School, Bedford; Veda Bhattaram is in seventh grade at Robert R Lazar Middle School, Montville; Pranay Varada is in eighth grade at Dewitt Perry Middle School, Carrollton; and Anish Susarla is in sixth grade at Belmont Ridge Middle School, Leesburg.

Top ten finalists of the 2017 National Geographic Bee with moderator Mo Rocca. Photo credit: Carol Woodward / National Geographic

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