Governor praises geography bee contestants for dedication to STEM


Mary Beth Faller

Fifth-grader Aditya Narayanan knew that a dinosaur tail with feathers was discovered in a mine in Myanmar and that the world’s largest marine protection area is off the coast of Antarctica in the Ross Sea.

But what he really likes is Europe.

Aditya, a student at Sonoran Sky Elementary School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, won the Arizona Geography Bee on Friday, held at Arizona State University. He’ll compete in the national bee, sponsored by National Geographic, in May in Washington, D.C.

He knew that “Spain” was the correct answer to the final bee question: Altamira cave, known for its prehistoric paintings, is in the province of Cantabria, in the northern part of which European country?

Aditya beat 100 other students in fourth through eighth grades at the bee. The second-place winner was William Anderson, a seventh-grader at Basis Peoria, and third place went to Gayatri Kaimal, a sixth-grader at Basis Tucson North. The bee included questions on states, endangered animal habitats, country borders and locations on a map.

“I like Europe because they preserve their monuments and all the ancient stuff,” said Aditya, who said he didn’t study too much but did train more than last year, when he also made the top-10 finalist round.

Aditya’s mother, Roopa Chidambaram, said the family emigrated from India two years ago, and they all agreed that winning the bee would be a great way for them to visit Washington, D.C.

“I’ve loved geography ever since my childhood, but math ranks up there too,” Aditya said.

And that’s important to the future of Arizona, according to Gov. Doug Ducey, who visited the bee to compete in a geography contest with two teams of students.

“Geography is a STEM discipline and it’s incredibly important to not only know your way around your neighborhood or city or town, but it’s something you’ll use all your life,” he said.

“It will use all the skills from analyzing these maps to something we’re doing now at the state level, testing driverless cars. That is a real use of this mapping technology along with the satellites that provide it,” he said.

The Arizona Geographic Alliance, a center housed at ASU, provided support for the bee, including a giant floor map for the students to play with. The co-coordinator of the center, Gale Ekiss, told the contestants to stick with it.

“I encourage you to keep going because there are jobs in geography,” she said.

Top photo: Aditya Narayanan, a fifth-grader at Sonoran Sky Elementary School in Scottsdale, holds up an answer during the Arizona Geography Bee at the Memorial Union at Arizona State University on Friday. Aditya outlasted 100 students from all over Arizona to win the bee. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now.

Note:  Additional photos from the Geographic Bee are available on ASU Now: