Karan Menon, 14, is National Geographic Bee champion, top three positions go to Indian-Americans


FRONT KIDWashington (IANS): Karan Menon, a 14-year-old Indian-origin boy, answered questions about places from Tashkent to Telangana to win the National Geographic Bee championship here with the top three positions going to Indian-Americans.

Menon bagged the championship by answering the final question: If built, the proposed Grand Inga Dam would be the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Near the Inga Falls, it is on which African river? Menon’s winning answer: the Congo.

“I’m on top of the world right now,” said the New Jerseyite, who competed against 10 young finalists, seven of them of Indian origin, from across the US, in grades four through eight, for a trip to the Galapagos Islands and $85,000 in college scholarships.

Menon bested runner-up Shriya Yarlagadda, 11, of Michigan, who missed only one question through the entire contest (about the Sea of Azov).

“It takes a lot of hard work, preparation, and being able to relax at key moments,” he said.

During one nail-biting moment, Menon challenged the judges after he answered taconite when host, journalist Soledad O’Brien, had wanted iron ore for the name of a mineral-rich deposit in the Mesabi Range. The judges agreed and granted him the point.

This year’s finalists included Kapil Nathan of Alabama, Sojas Wagle of Arkansas, Nicholas Monahan of Idaho, Patrick Taylor of Iowa, Abhinav Karthikeyan of Maryland, Lucy Chae of Massachusetts, Shriya Yarlagadda of Michigan, Shreyas Varathan of Minnesota, Karan Menon of New Jersey and Tejas Badgujar of Pennsylvania.

The finalists qualified for Wednesday’s championship in a preliminary round on Monday that included 54 contestants from state and territory-level bees.

Four million students competed in local geography bees this year from 11,000 schools, representing roughly 12 percent of US schools.

“Geography helps prepare students to make the world a better place,” National Geographic president and CEO Gary Knell told the Bee’s live audience on Wednesday.

A recent survey found that three of four American eighth graders lack basic proficiency in the subject.

National Geographic started the Bee in 1989 to improve geographic literacy among young people. Michael Jordan majored in geography and Mother Teresa taught it, the organisers noted.