NEW YORK – Indian American teenager, Sojas Wagle, 15, a sophomore at the Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, is the winner of the 2017 World Brain Bee championship, held in Washington, DC, from August 2-6, and hosted by the American Psychological Association. Milena Malcharek of Poland, and Elwin Vethamuthu, 17, of Malaysia – the latter also of Indian-origin – were the second and third place winners, respectively, in the competition that aims to “builds better brains to fight brain disorders”.
In winning the championship, Wagle got $3,000, a trophy, and the right to represent the Brain Bee worldwide. He has been accumulating winnings at national level competitions, at a rapid pace.
Wagle, who was last year selected for the Whiz Kids Edition of the popular game show, ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, walked away with $250,000, after deciding not to hazard a guess for the half a million dollar question. He later donated $10,000 of his wininings to his school district and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Wagle has also won $10,000 for coming in third at the 2015 National Geographic Bee.
The talented Sojas is captain of his school’s Quiz Bowl team, a member of the Arkansas Philharmonic Youth Orchestra playing violin as first chair, volunteered as an algebra tutor at his local summer school, and is passionate about debating.
The Brain Bee is a neuroscience competition for young students, 13 to 19 years of age. The competition has three tiers. Worldwide there are about 200 local Chapter competitions, each one involving many schools. The winners of those then compete in their respective Regional (National) championships. The Regional winners then go on to represent their countries in the World Championship.
They are tested on their knowledge of the human brain including such topics as intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, addictions and brain research. The competition involves oral tests, a neuroanatomy laboratory exam with real human brains, a neurohistology test, and a patient diagnosis component with patient actors.
Sample questions include: What kind of molecules are semaphorin, ephrin, neuropilin and plexin? Sonic hedgehog is important for the development of what part of the nervous system? What is the medical term for when you start dreaming before you fall asleep? Stargazer mice are experimental models for which type of epilepsy?
The purpose of the Brain Bee is to motivate young men and women to study the brain, and to inspire them to consider careers in the basic and clinical neurosciences.
The International Brain Bee President and Founder is Dr. Norbert Myslinski, of The University of Maryland Dental School Department of Neural and Pain Sciences.
In the past, since its inception in 1998, there have been five other champions of Indian origin: Arjun Bharioke of New Jersey, in 2001; Saroj Kunnakkat of New York, in 2003; Bhaktapriya Nagalla of Connecticut, in 2004; Ritika Chokhani of Mumbai, India, in 2010; and Gayathri Muthukumar of Bangalore, India, in 2014.
The New Straits Times reported the third place winner this year, Elwin Raj, a student of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Seri Bintang Utara, Kuala Lumpur, was the country’s sole representative, joining 24 other champions from their respective countries for the five-day competition.
In an story on Wagle, the Springdale school system reported that he won the $250,000 in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in July and didn’t tell a soul until mid-November.
Asked on what he plans to do with his winnings, he had responded: “I really want to travel so this summer I want to go to Europe,” Wagle said, adding, “I will save the rest for college.”
He may not need it. By the time he graduates he will likely be able to go to the college of his choice with plenty of scholarships. Colleges are already aware of Wagle’s academic prowess. He scored well on his ACT in seventh grade through the Duke Talent Search. In fact, he has been receiving emails from the Duke Talent Search ever since. That’s how he discovered “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” was looking for young contestants.