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Austin 5th Grader Represents Texas in National Geographic Bee

National Geographic

Update: Chinmay Murthy, the 5th grader representing Texas in the National Geographic Bee, did not move on past the preliminary round of the Bee.  He missed a chance to qualify in the Top Ten by two questions. Murthy is vowing to try again next year.

Original Story (9:18 a.m.): Monday marks the start of the three-day National Geographic Bee in Washington D.C.

Dozens of students from across the country will participate in the competition. And this year an Austin fifth grader will represent the state of Texas.

For the past 25 years, the National Geographic Bee has been moderated by Alex Trebec. It’s a contest for students in grades four through eight, testing their knowledge about world geography. This year, Paragon Preparatory's Chinmay Murthy will represent the Lone Star State. It’s his first time competing in a geography bee. Murthy says geography is more than just locating a country or city on a map.

“There are tons of other things that could go into geography,” Murthy says. “A lot of stuff you think as different subjects goes into geography. There’s physical – types of land forms, definitions, cultural geography – like an ethnic group living where."

Murthy uses geography games and quizzes to study. He learns about U.S. geography in school, but says he taught himself a lot about world geography. He says his mother, Poornima, helps him study.

“My parents play a very prominent role in this,” he says. “My mom is the main driving force behind me studying. She asks me questions; she asks me current event questions, especially. And she has a done a lot for me. She’s gotten a lot of books that I find interesting and I should use."

To qualify for the national championship, Murthy won his class geography bee and school geography bee. Then he took a test to qualify for the state contest. He won that too. Now he heads to Washington D.C. where he competes for a $25,o00 scholarship.

If Murthy wins, he also has a chance to represent the United Stations in the World Geography Bee in July. This year, it’s in St. Petersburg, Russia. Murthy can immediately list off facts about the city:

"It has a lot of history, a lot of rich history,” he says. “It was called Leningrad once and it was the capitol of Russia once. I want to learn what life was there."

Mary Lee Elden, Executive Director of the National Geographic Bee, says the more young people know about the world, the better.

“They’re going to be making decisions down the road about we handle our resources and what we do with other countries, and I think if they’re more aware of cultural aspects of other countries, of the environment, they’ll make better decisions," Elden says.

Heading into the Bee, Murthy says he’s confident – and he seems ready. I tested his knowledge on Friday. He answered every question with little hesitation:

KUT News: Which state includes part of the Sierra Nevada range, California or Massachusetts? Murthy: California. KUT News: Which state produces more coal, Washington or Kentucky? Murthy: Kentucky. KUT News Which country isn’t crossed by the prime meridian—France, Morocco or Spain? Murthy: Morocco. KUT News: Sweet potatoes are grown east of Lake Albert in which country, Uganda or Mongolia? Murthy: Uganda.

Afterwards, Murthy quizzed me. I got two out of three correct—but I’m pretty sure he was going easy on me. 

Want to test your own knowledge of geography? Take our quiz here!

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