Indian-Americans top three winners of National Geographic Bee 2018

Venkat Ranjan, 13, is announced as the winner of the National Geographic Bee Wednesday. Comedian and talk show host Mo Rocca hosted the annual geography competition for the third year. Photograph by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic

At the end of several days of a grueling competition for the top prize at the National Geographic Bee, two Indian-American teens were left to beat each other out. And it was Venkat Ranjan, 13, of California, who defeated Anoushka Buddhikot, 13, of New Jersey, to walk away with the $50,000 scholarship and other great goodies. Vishal Sareddy, 14, of Georgia won third place.

The winning question was difficult – Which South American country has a population size most similar to Lebanon? Venkat struck gold when he said ‘Paraguay’ and Anoushka ended up being the runner-up, no small feat, after she replied ‘Guyana.’

Ten finalists emerged on May 21, from the 54 who came to Washington, D.C. to compete in the 30th Annual National Geographic Bee. Several of them were Indian-American students. (Photo:

Ranjan beat out 10 finalists to reach the top at the competition held in Washington, D.C. today. This was his third attempt since 2015, at the Nat Geo Bee.The preliminary round of the 30th annual National Geographic Bee was held on Monday, May 21, when the top 10 finishers included several Indian-Americans. Apart from Ranjan and Buddhikot, and Sareddy, of the remaining 7, three were Indian-American. The seven other finalists included Sean Cheng, New Hampshire; Gayatri Kaimal, Arizona; Atreya Mallanna, Massachusetts; Jonathan Song, North Carolina; Saket Pochiraju, Ohio; Ashwin Sivakumar, Oregon; and Nihar Janga, Texas


Indian-American youth have been winning at both the National Geographic Bee and the upcoming National Spelling Bee, excelling for several years. In this year’s Geographic Bee, some 2.6 million students in the 4th-8th grades competed in more than 10,000 schools around the country.

After stiff competition, 54 finalists rose to the top, representing winners of each state and overseas territories of the United States. The 54 competitors were shorne down to 10 by May 23. Each of them will receive $500.

The National Geographic Bee contestants greeted their families and spectators after the competition May 23, in Washington, D.C.. Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic

Ranjan however, was awarded a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society, including a subscription to National Geographic Magazine, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galapgos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll.

Second- and third-place finishers received $25,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively.

Questions in the competition were tough, and included things like- whether a map of the U.S. shows homelessness or the literacy rate; the range of the black bear or a ponderosa pine; and ferry boardings versus minimum wage, the press release said.

It was not all about places, but also about their awareness of environmental issues. For instance,  contestants were asked to choose one of three rivers as the best choice to focus a plastic cleanup effort, to reduce the amount of waste going into the ocean. All three Indian-American finalists chose China’s Yangtze River  on grounds that it was surrounded by a high population and high plastic consumption, combined with limited recycling efforts.

Other questions included the name of the U.S. state capital which was located on the Pearl River; Sweden’s largest island, and the currency of Denmark.





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