Hayward 7th-grader wins 3rd place in National Geographic Bee

(Photo by Rebecca Hale/National Geographic)

May 24, 2012 6:53:39 PM PDT
A Hayward seventh-grader put himself on the map this morning, winning third place in the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., a spokeswoman for the nonprofit scientific and educational organization said.

Varun Mahadevan, a 13-year-old who attends Fremont's Prince of Peace Christian School, won a $10,000 scholarship from National Geographic with his third-place finish this morning at the organization's D.C. headquarters, spokeswoman Stephanie Montgomery said.

The 24th annual bee will be aired on the National Geographic Channel tonight at 8 p.m. Alex Trebek, the host of the TV game show Jeopardy, moderated the contest.

Dan Dueck, principal of Varun's school, said students and teachers are "all fired up for Varun," who represented California and made it to the top 10 after Tuesday's preliminary round.

A teacher from Prince of Peace and Varun's parents have been with him in Washington, D.C., this week as he competed against students in fourth through eighth grade.

Dueck said Varun has a gift for geography and is confident in his skills. The seventh-grader has sparked interest in the subject among his fellow students back home, the principal said.

The school is planning a celebration Tuesday in Varun's honor.

The competitive process that propelled Varun into the national spotlight began in December at the school level. He went on to win the state bee in Sacramento in March.

Participants in the bee are grilled on a variety of topics from around the globe. They are asked questions such as, "To visit the ruins of Persepolis, an ancient ceremonial capital of Persia, you would have to travel to what present-day country?"

Other questions focus on the U.S., such as, "Which state has a climate suitable for growing citrus fruits -- California or Maine?"

The respective answers to the sample questions are Iran and California.

In a video of introduction submitted for the finals, Varun showcased his knowledge of California geography and natural landmarks, including spots such as the Hayward hills, Lake Chabot, Lake Tahoe, and Pinnacles National Monument.

"I have loved geography since I was young," Varun said in the video. He said he also loves traveling and that he wants to visit Venezuela.

He also told viewers, "If I was in charge of the Earth, I would give proper education to all countries so poverty and strife would be avoided."

Texas student Rahul Nagvekar, 14, won today's bee, which is sponsored by Google. Nagvekar won a $25,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society.

A closing reception will be held for the contestants tonight at the National Geographic building, Montgomery said.

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