Fifty-four of the nation’s brightest young geography whiz kids will gather in Washington, D.C., from May 19 to 21 to take part in the 26th annual National Geographic Bee. The fifth- through eighth-graders, who range in age from 11 to 15, will be competing for the 2014 Bee crown and three college scholarships. Google is the sponsor of this year’s contest.


The scholarship prize money has been increased this year from $50,000 to $85,000. The winner of the National Geographic Bee will receive the top prize of a $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. The second- and third-place finishers will be awarded college scholarships of $25,000 and $10,000 respectively. Additionally, the Bee champion will travel (along with one parent or guardian), all expenses paid, to the Galápagos on an expedition aboard the Lindblad ship National Geographic Endeavour. Travel for the Galápagos voyage is provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.


The 54 finalists, winners of their state-level geographic bees, beat nearly 4 million fourth- through eighth-graders to earn a place in the national contest. They represent the 50 states, District of Columbia, AtlanticTerritories, PacificTerritories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools.


The preliminary round of the 2014 National Geographic Bee will take place on Monday, May 19. The top 10 finalists will each win $500 and advance to the final round on Wednesday, May 21, moderated for the first time by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien. She succeeds “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, who moderated the Bee for its first 25 years.


National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD will air the final round at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 22. It will be aired later on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.


Eighteen of the students taking part in this year’s National Geographic Bee are repeat state winners, including two who are competing for the fourth time and three who are competing for the third time. The four-time returnees are Christian Boekhout of Arkansas and Krish Patel of South Carolina, who represented their states at the 2011, 2012 and 2013 National Geographic Bees. Returning for the third time are California’s Tuvya Bergson-Michelson, who represented his state in 2011 and 2013; Colorado’s Pranit Nanda, who was his state’s winner in 2012 and 2013; and West Virginia’s Andrew Christy, who competed in the 2012 and 2013 National Geographic Bees.


The other repeat winners are Patrick Lewallen, representing Department of Defense Dependents Schools (2013); Mika Ishii of Hawaii (2012); Amrit Singh of Idaho (2013); Sean Ives of Indiana (2013); Nikhil Krishna of Kentucky (2012); Abhinav Karthikeyan of Maryland (2013); Philip Huang of Michigan (2012); Gabriel Cuneo of New Mexico (2012); Gabe Straus of New York (2013); Kyle Yu of Ohio (2013); Max Levine of Rhode Island (2012); Akhil Rekulapelli of Virginia (2013); and Asha Jain of Wisconsin (2013). Asha’s brother, Vansh, placed second at the 2012 National Geographic Bee.


Both this year’s and next year’s top 10 national finalists will be eligible for selection to the three-person team that will represent the United States at the National Geographic World Championship, to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2015.


A survey of this year’s state and territory Bee winners shows that they have numerous talents in addition to their prodigious geography knowledge. Many have won math, science and spelling contests; a number play musical instruments; and most enjoy a variety of sports and other outdoor activities. Grandparents and teachers top the list of people (apart from their parents) who the students admire.


Gary Knell, National Geographic Society president and CEO, said, “The National Geographic Bee is just one of the many ways National Geographic is fulfilling its mission to inspire people to care about the planet. The Bee expands students’ knowledge of people, places and events around the world and fosters a lifelong love of learning and exploration, turning today’s competitors into tomorrow’s leaders.”


Google is sponsoring the Bee for the sixth year. “We’re proud to continue our sponsorship of the National Geographic Bee and to encourage the next generation of explorers and innovators. Maps are such an integral part of how we live and do business, and it’s important that we continue to invest in geographic literacy and education. The students who participate in the National Geographic Bee have demonstrated an impressive understanding of the world and its many wonders, and we are proud that young minds across the globe are using Google products to learn and collaborate. This competition demonstrates the power of technology to foster learning and inspire future generations, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it again this year,” said Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering, Google Earth and Maps.


The National Geographic Society developed the National Geographic Bee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States.


The National Geographic GeoBee Challenge app, with more than 1,000 questions culled from past Bees, is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.


The 2013 National Geographic Bee champion was Sathwik Karnik of Massachusetts, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at King Philip Regional Middle School in Norfolk, southwest of Boston. He correctly answered the winning question: “Because Earth bulges at the Equator, the point that is farthest from Earth’s center is the summit of a peak in Ecuador. Name this peak.” Answer: Chimborazo.


See the 2014 National Geographic Bee Yearbook with information on each finalist. »

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