Human Journey

Live Blogging the National Geographic Geography Bee

Bee_top10_DLMelody Kramer of National Geographic magazine will be live blogging today’s National Geographic Bee—the last to be hosted by Alex Trebek, along with staffers Brian Howard and Amy Bucci. Kramer is a Bee veteran—she was once a contestant in the New Jersey county finals. If she could go back in time, she would study Easter Island, which was ultimately her downfall. Howard also participated in the Bee, when he was a kid growing up in Indiana. He, too, was not a winner, although he did place seventh in this year’s staff Geo Bee. This year’s ten finalists (above) include three girls, taking part in what’s traditionally been a male-dominated competition.

11:27 a.m.

Bucci: Winning question: Because the earth bulges at the equator, which mountain peak on the earth is farthest from the earth’s center?

Answer: Chimborazo
11:26 a.m.

Kramer: New Host Announcement: Soledad O’Brien. Her first name is also a town in California, which perhaps makes her uniquely qualified for the role.

11:25 a.m.

Howard: Ricky got third just like me in the rehearsal. I played him in the rehearsal. Poetic?

11:24 a.m.

beewinnerphoto(1)Kramer: After many grueling rounds testing geographic knowledge about lions in Botswana, mountain ranges in Asia and port cities in England, 12-year-old Sathwik Karnik from Massachusetts was named the winner of the 25th Annual National Geography Bee (pictured, with penguin).

Karnik, a native of Norfolk, south of Boston, is a 7th grader at King Philip Regional Middle School. He’ll take home the spoils of the Bee prize: a $25,000 college scholarship, an all-expenses paid trip to the Galapagos Islands, and a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society. Competitors also get the chance to compete on behalf of the United States in an International geographic competition.

Nearly 5 million students started in the Geography Bee. After state and local competitions, those millions were whittled down to the top 54, and then the 10. Three of the finalists are siblings of former finalists – including Karnik, whose brother has participated in the Bee.

11:23 a.m.

Howard: Sathwik has a big grin as he writes the final answer, wins 5 to 4.

11:18 a.m.

Bucci: Conrad needs to get this next question right and Sathwik has to miss it in order for Conrad to stay.

11:17 a.m.

Kramer: Best of five between Sathwik and Conrad. So far we’re tied at 1-1.

11:13 a.m.

Kramer: Watching video montage of contestants. Things I have learned: The National Mall is bigger than Vatican City; the shortest place name in the word is A (it’s a village between Norway and Sweden); there’s a YOLO Street (in Kinshasa)!; the world’s shortest river is in Oregon.


Avi Misra from Missouri said he lives in Kansas but goes to school across the state line. That factored into his interest in geography. Girl from Louisiana said crawfish po boy, crawfish etoufee, a bunch of other crawfish things, crowd laughed. Kid from South Dakota said she’d go to NYC because there’s not much to do in SD.
One kid showed how he goes into rally mode.
One said he’d love to put geography info on a flash drive and upload into his brain.
Kid from Pacific territories said he’d be capt cook because he explored the pacific w/o the hindrance of scurvy.
 11:08 a.m.

Howard: In contestant highlight video, kid from Minnesota said his state is known by many for the mall of America for shopping.

11:07 a.m.

Kramer: The last two finalists:
Massachusetts — Sathwik Karnik is a 12-year-old 7th grader at King Philip Regional Middle School in Norfolk, southwest of Boston. He plays the clarinet and enjoys competing in chess tournaments. He’d like to visit the Galapagos, which he’ll do if he wins.

Illinois — Conrad Oberhaus is a 13-year-old 7th grader at Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire, a suburb of Chicago. He was also in the 2012 Bee. He has won multiple presidential physical fitness awards and state and national chess awards. He earned a black belt in tae kwon do when he was 6.

11:03 a.m.

Kramer: Down to the final two — Massachusetts (24 points) and Illinois (21 points)

11:01 a.m.

Kramer: We’re down to the final four. The stage has been reconfigured so they’re all sitting in the same row.

Howard: Alex told to the audience not to say, whisper, or mouth any answers. As if that’s going to happen, he jokes. Most of you can’t even find Detroit.

10:56 a.m.

Kramer: Four contestants remain. All of the females have been eliminated. Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Virginia remain. They’re all guys. Youngest contestant Ricky Uppaluri is still on the stage. He just turned 11 last week.

10:53 a.m.

Kramer: Six contestants remain. They’re asked to identify land masses on zoomed-in maps. It’s tough to identify any of these islands — particularly without other countries around them.

Bucci: If they can name the island when the map is at the most “zoomed in,” they get three points. Each time they zoom out the question is worth less. Asha Jain IDs Wrangel Island for 1 point. Virginia contestant names Socotra. Conrad from Illinois gets Costa Rica on the first try to big applause and 3 points.

10:51 a.m.

Kramer: There’s a penguin on the stage. It has a strange mating call. It’s currently silent.

10:49 a.m.

Howard: Neelam and Tuvya exit. Audience groans.

10:45 a.m.

Howard: Conrad had the cities question I had in the staff Bee: Putting Prague, Budapest, Zagreb in order from north to south. He got it right: Prague, Budapest, Zagreb. So did I. I got the bonus for which has the largest population (Budapest) but he missed it.

10:44 a.m.

Howard: Neelam was asked to place Iran, Yemen, Egypt  in order of decreasing geographic size. Answer: Iran, Egypt, Yemen. She was right but missed the bonus: Which country has the highest population density? It’s Egypt, she said Iran.

Sathwik surges ahead to 19 points, gettng his lakes in order and the bonus question.

Bucci: Sathwik is from Massachusetts. As I am from Boston I am superexcited.

10:43 a.m.

Howard: Shawn Cartwright came out to demonstrate tai chi. The contestants were asked which Chinese province was the source of the oldest form of tai chi, invented by the Chen family. Answer: Henan. Three got it. Conrad got the 1 point bonus. Just ahead, the next elimination…

Kramer: Contestants are asked to place countries in order, in terms of land area, population density, and other statistics. I am realizing how much I do not know about the world.

10:38 a.m.

Kramer:  Contestant from California just received question about California. Audience laughs.

Brian Howard: All but 2 students got Yucatan peninsula right: the peninsula near the Mesoamerican reef. Conrad got the question I had missed: the Pearl Islands are in what large gulf? Answer: gulf of panama.

10:32 a.m.

New round of questions, involving National Geographic Expeditions. Eight contestants remain.

10:23 a.m.

Questions are getting much harder. This round involves looking at pictures of Google Earth and then answering questions about port cities.

10:20 a.m.

Calfornia’s contestant participates in model UN. He also enjoys cross-country running, baseball statistics, and international affairs.

10:15 a.m.

The contestant from Illinois has had a black belt since he was 6. He started when he was 3.

Georgia’s contestant, newly 11, had a perfect score in the prelims. At one point in his life, he was chased by a monkey, who ripped his pants off. Also, he collects globes.

Michigan’s champ is a story writer who has participated in National Novel Writing Month. (That means she wrote 50,000 words in one month.)

10:10 a.m.

Virginia’s contestant just returned from Costa Rica, where he ate live termites, which apparently “don’t taste like anything.” Trebek confesses that this “grosses him out.”

10:08 a.m.
Fun facts: Three of the contestants are siblings of former contestants.
New Hampshire’s contestant, a competitive swimmer and poet, feels “pretty relaxed.”
Oregon’s champ, a two-time state winner, is a basketball player who favors the Miami Heat.
Colorado’s contestant is a three-time President Award winner for Academic Excellence and is also a math champ. He loves The Amazing Race (and would probably be great on it.)
The older brother of the Massachusett contestant also was in the National Bee (and apparently does a great Trebek impersonation.)

10:05 a.m.

A boa constrictor was just brought out on the stage. I don’t know what question is being asked because I am now trembling under my seat.

10:03 a.m.

Compared to these preteens, I feel like I know nothing about the world. We’ve just gotten through a round of explorer-related questions. I think I knew the answers to 2 of them.

9:59 a.m.
Based on the speed and accuracy of contestant answers in the first round, I have a feeling we’re going to be here a while. So far, a perfect score for everyone.

9:56 a.m.

We start off with some border questions. The first one: What country is bordered by Burkina Faso and Libya? Neelam Sandhu of New Hampshire answers correctly: Niger.

The first round finishes off with no incorrect answers.

Second round: explorer questions!

9:52 a.m.

Georgia’s Ricky Uppaluri is the youngest competitor in the top 10. He turned 11 last week.
9:49 a.m.
The contestants stride across the stage as the audience applauds loudly. They look a little nervous.

9:48 a.m.

Interesting facts about contestants:

Gabe Straus (New York) plays the double bass and likes baking novelty cakes.

Matthew Janson (North Carolina) says the best place he’s been is Hungary.

Abhinav Karthikeyan (Maryland) collects state quarters.

Kenny Petrini (Alaska) says the “coolest place he’s been is Detroit.”

Walker Miller (Florida) would like to be a travel journalist and would “love to visit Turkey.”

Prani Nalluri (Kansas) would like to climb Mt. Everest and hopes to become a surgeon.

9:40 a.m.
Video tribute to Trebek highlights the fact that he can pronounce literally any geographic term flawlessly.

9:34 a.m.

Praise for Mary Lee Elden and Alex Trebek, who are both leaving the Bee after 25 years. Elden directed and founded the Bee; Trebek, of course, is the host of both Jeopardy and the Bee

9:25 a.m.

The audience is beginning to fill into the auditorium. The 10 finalists on stage are:

Neelam Sandhu – New Hampshire

Harish Palani – Oregon

Pranit Nanda – Colorado

Sathwik Karnik – Massachusetts

Akhil Rekulapelli – Virginia

Asha Jain – Wisconsin

Conrad Oberhaus – Illinois

Ricky Uppaluri – Georgia

Neha Middela – Michigan

Tuvya Bergson-Michelson – California

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • jwh

    As i have been her competitor for years (placed 3rd last years MI bee) i am super proud of neha

  • t a mack

    After watching our grandson compete on the state level in 2013, we were quite disappointed that you didn’t take the opportunity to introduce each contestant from every state on the televised competition. All of these children worked so hard to achieve this accomplishment and deserved to be individually recognized for their diligence. They could have simply lined up by alphabetical order of state, introducing themselves – it may have taken 3-5 minutes out of your scheduling, and you absolutely disappointed us by not allowing this. Even if there was more than 1 televised production, these children deserve this to reinforce their sense of pride, and possibly potentially influence other students towards this accomplishment. Asking them to stand as a group to be recognized should be an embarrassment to National Geographic and Alex Tribek, as it’s definitely a great disappointment to us and probably every other family with a child to be proud of for their geographic intellect.

  • Christian Gonzalez

    Look “t a mack,” if they did that, then what would motivate kids to study harder for next year? Answer: nothing except winning. You clearly are new to this competition, and you are being ignorant by stating this. Has anyone else complained except you? NO. Also, it is not about recognition, it is about winning. Why do kids enter this? To W-I-N. Not to “achieve this accomplishment” and are obviously not diligent enough to make it up on stage on their own. Also, if your grandson did not make it up to Washington D.C., why are you complaining?

  • Christian Gonzalez

    Also, you contradicted yourself: “Asking them to stand as a group to be recognized should be an embarrassment to National Geographic and Alex Tribek.” AND you spelled Alex Trebek’s name wrong.

  • kyoya wood

    actually, it is about the accomplishment , t a mack is right, i would know because i participated in the geography bee. we wanted recognition for our abilty, no one cared about winning, it was about proving our worth and talent.

  • a random person wo doesnt want to diclose their name

    i disagree with christian. How would you like it if you were close to winning, and didnt win, and no one recognized the effort you put into it? i know i would feel bad, how do you expect kids to keep studying if they have no encouragement? Your comment probably hurt t a mack’s feeling, you shouldn’t be so harsh! yes, kids do need to workk hard and try to achieve, but they need some support!
    also christian, great fact on kumar’s blog!

  • Hi Im Bob

    Ya christian u could have hurt his feelings so stop being so mean u should feel ashamed of urself

  • jatt

    I wish i can go

  • kiana h

    well, just reading this freaked me out…I’m competing in the semifinals for my school tomorrow!

  • Sienna

    The questions are quite tough. I am participating in the bee this year. I have been spending my 2 week winter break studying for the bee. Hopefully I get to the state level.

  • Rsm

    I want to study for the bee in my winter break. The question is HOW? Can anyone help me find the right resources?

  • claire

    To T A MACK-

    There were 100 state level competitors from each place. 54*100 is 5400. They do not have time to put every competitor on TV, only the best 54 get that privilege. Yeah your grandson didn’t make it,but neither did millions of other hardworking kids.

  • fluufa

    i am going in my own geo bee at my school, and i wondered if everyone could just be nicer at not competitive. and you christian gonzalez are a bullt to tamack. so be nicer what would jesus do?

  • Anonymous

    Well, t a mack. u don’t do nothing about the bee. u don’t know how long it would take to have every state kid go into the geo bee. It just shows that the ten kids that are standing in the pic above are smarter than yo grandson. tell him to study. Just cause u want to be selfish and want yo son ta be put on tv. do u know how many kids work so hard to win the bee? do they get put on tv? no. Only 1 one 1 person can win the bee. the ten peeps standing up in that pic are definetly smartacle parctacles and deserve to be on tv. I now look up to them as rolemodels. especially the winner of this year. he showed me that people from mass are smart and can win the bee. He now inspired me too take part in bee this year too. go mass!! u do not know how long that would take. children that are disqualified should just work harder every year until 8th grade. I am very mad at yo comment. only smart peeps win. not dumb 1s. those ten up their deserve to honered and celebrated!!! not complained and taunted! shame on u for picking on other peeps very intelligent kids just because yo gson did not make the state bee. shame on u!!!

  • homer simpson

    i am very pleased with dis kidsa perfromace i am veery smart too i won last year but lets just say my fameliy couldnt not go because we are not smar and know this trip was very free but congradutlations sir good work love you so much you are my hero love you babe girl you sweet

  • this girl

    I WON in my class room quiz and i need more training Help please plus i am not a nerd i am just smart and I know my history and world history and other things

  • The girl with SWAG

    I also won my classroom geo bee and I am studying on the weekend which is terrible and I have noooo idea how I won against a kid that pretty much wins everything!!!!

  • Keturah

    I got second place in our school bee! I lost by one question, and the right answer was even my first guess! But the funny thing was that both me and the winner put the same answer for the last question…he also put Kazakhstan.

  • Prissy

    Im going to my schools final round. here r some quetions they will ask-
    lake okechobee is in which state?
    the potomac river empties in what bay?
    the Taklimakan desert is located in which country?
    they will also ask what thing comes out ouf a volcano, its magma
    i got these from looking at other school geo bees. they posted some of the answers they will ask cause they do not think that people will copy. i am
    they will also ask something about permafrost, and the answer is tundra
    Good luck for peeps who want to win thier school bee

  • Sean Corrigan

    I just won my school geography bee. the winning question was “the island of Bali is part of what Asian country?”
    Answer: Indonesia

  • quanah roberts

    I’m coming to state for first year and I and anxious… But if I don’t make it at least i won against my school

  • Mr.mister

    I have won my school competition and have qualified for state round. Any ideas on what I should study?

  • Christian Gonzalez

    To t a mack,

    I am so sorry for being rude. It was a terrible thing to say.

    C. Gonzalez

  • joey nesmith

    yall did good job as I have been a competitor for years

  • joey nesmith

    I have won my school competition and have qualified for state round. Any ideas on what I should study?

  • Elijah Antunes

    I competing for my school. I know I’m going to win it Togo to D.C

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