National Geographic News
2010 National Geographic Bee Finals
2010 National Geographic Bee winner Aadith Moorthy (center) surrounded by fellow competitors Wednesday.

Photograph by Rebecca Hale

Christine Dell'Amore in Washington, D.C.

National Geographic News

Published May 26, 2010

National Geographic Bee winner Aadith Moorthy of Florida proved Wednesday he could carry a tune—and carry home top honors.

After the first round, the 13-year-old singer of Carnatic, a style of southern Indian classical music, performed for the audience gathered at the National Geographic Society's Washington, D.C. headquarters at the request of Jeopardy! TV host and Bee final-round moderator Alex Trebek.

Later, in the final championship round, Moorthy cinched the 22nd National Geographic Bee with this question:

"The largest city in northern Haiti was renamed following Haiti's independence from France. What is the present-day name of this city?"

Answer: Cap-Haïtien.

Video: 2010 National Geographic Bee's Final Moments

Grinning on stage after the win, Moorthy told National Geographic News that he'd felt confident all along. "I wanted to win—that was my goal," he said, adding that he "thought the questions would be harder."

Along with the U.S. $25,000 college scholarship, the Palm Harbor Middle School student gets a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and a trip to the Galápagos Islands. (See pictures of Galápagos animals.)

Rhode Island's Oliver Lucier, 13, won second place and a $15,000 college scholarship. Idaho's Karthik Mouli, 12, earned a $10,000 scholarship for his third-place finish. Both students had won their respective state titles in 2009 too.

(The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

This Year's Bee a "Tough" Competition

The National Geographic Bee was founded in 1989 in response to the perceived lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the U.S. (See the results of a 2006 survey of geographic literacy in the U.S.)

This year a combined total of nearly five million fifth- to eighth-grade students vied for spots in the national championships during bees held in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

As in past years, the 54 National Geographic Bee state-level winners—including one girl—competed as semifinalists. (See "Girl Wins Geographic Bee—First in 17 Years." [2007].)

Ten finalists emerged Tuesday during a "tough" preliminary round, which included seven tie-breaker questions—an unusually high number, said Bee director Mary Lee Elden.

Bee Contestants Treated to Sharks and Spoonbills

During Wednesday's final round, the ten finalists were given just 12 seconds to respond to each question, and they were allowed two mistakes before being eliminated. The questions were presented in various formats, including video, Google Earth simulations, and live props.

For instance, the competitors were shown a clip from the new Nat Geo Wild TV channel of sharks teeming around Cocos Island (see pictures). They were then asked to identify the Central American country south of Nicaragua where the island is located. All ten got the correct response: Costa Rica.

Other questions were accompanied by onstage appearances of a wading bird called a roseate spoonbill, a raccoon-like animal called a kinkajou, and a man playing the fujara, a tall wooden flute.

"The instrument—which shepherds once played to soothe their herds—originated in the mountainous regions west of Košice in which central European country?" Trebek asked. (Answer: Slovakia.)

Listening to the music, Bee moderator Trebek quipped, "I have this insatiable desire to climb a hill and eat grass."

The TV host, who sang geography's praises throughout the Bee, left the audience with this reminder: "History is about the past. But geography—it's about the future. Go make it happen."

For Bee winner Moorthy, though, changing the world can wait.

"I'm done for the year," he said. "Now I'm going to rest."

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