United States Geography Olympiad

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The United States Geography Olympiad, often abbreviated as USGO, is a nationwide academic geography competition for primary and secondary school students in the United States. It was introduced during the 2012-2013 school year. It currently consist of approximately 105 National Qualifying Exam sites held around the United States and its territories, along with a certain number of international schools, and a National Championships held in Arlington, VA at the end of April. The National Qualifying Exam sites are held in conjunction with the high school-level regional and state tournaments of The National History Bee and The National History Bowl.

The United States Geography Olympiad is also the official qualifying competition for American students looking to qualify for the International Geography Olympiad, an international geography competition, which is held every summer in a different country. The international competition consists of three parts: a written test, a multimedia test and some fieldwork-related activity. James Mullen of Cupertino, CA, won the 2014 International Geography Olympiad while the USA finished 10th out of 36 countries overall.

The United States Geography Olympiad currently includes two categories: a Junior Varsity category and a Varsity category. For each academic school year, students who are younger than 16 years of age, as of July 1 of the summer following the school year, can participate in the Junior Varsity category - there is no younger age limit. Students who are 16 or older (up to 19), as July 1 of the summer following the school year, must participate in the Varsity category. Only students in the Varsity category are eligible to qualify for the US National Team which will participate during that summer in the International Geography Olympiad.

The US Geography Olympiad is not associated with National Geographic or the National Geographic Bee.

History of the competition[edit]

The US Geography Olympiad was founded in the summer of 2012 under the name "United States Geography Challenge" by David Madden and Enrico Contolini. David Madden is a former 19-day champion on Jeopardy!, who also serves as Executive Director for both The National History Bee and The National History Bowl. Enrico Contolini is an engineer and self-taught geography enthusiast and researcher who coached his daughter Isabella to be the top female student nationally in the National Geographic Bee in both 2010 and 2011. The name of the competition was changed to the United States Geography Olympiad in October 2013.

Along with acting as the qualifying competition for American students looking to attend the International Geography Olympiad, the US Geography Olympiad was founded to test the geography skills of American students and to help promote geography education. The competition aims to reward students who have devoted themselves to studying the world, and its countries and peoples, as a thorough knowledge of geography is essential to being an educated citizen today. The US Geography Olympiad aims at being more than a competition, and for this reason it also runs a USGeoChallenge Facebook page where geography-related articles and news, quizzes, links to relevant websites and blogs are posted on a regular bases to foster educational discussions and opportunities for those interested in geography as a subject.

The Elementary and Middle School divisions were introduced in 2015. The Middle School division was divided into 7th and 8th grade divisions in 2016.

Format of the competition[edit]

The Regional and/or State Qualifying event is currently organized as a 50 multiple-choice question written test to be completed in 20 minutes. Students may take the Qualifying Exam up to three times, as three different versions of the Exam are offered at different regional tournaments. To qualify for Nationals, students must finish in either the top half of the students in their division (Varsity or JV) at their site, or in the top 50% of students taking that particular version of the Qualifying Exam nationally.

The National competition currently consists of three different events: A written exam, a map skills exam, and an 80 question multiple choice exam. Participants are given one hour to finish the first set of 40 multiple choice questions and the map skills exam. After a break, participants are given another hour to finish the second set of 40 multiple choice questions and the written exam. The written exam is based on the written exam at the International Geography Olympiad (iGeo), and the multiple choice exam is based on the multimedia exam at iGeo.

After the competition, participants are given a rank score in each event, based on how their scores placed within that event. Any ties are shown by a .5 ranking; thus, a student that is tied for 1st place would have a rank score of 1.5. To determine participants' final rank, rank values in the three events are added together and ranked from greatest to least. The most favorable rank score would be 3.0, signifying that the participant ranked 1st in all three events. Rankings for Junior Varsity and Varsity divisions are separate, because the top 4 students in Varsity earn a seat in the US Team going to iGeo (International Geography Olympiad).

Past locations[edit]

The JV and Varsity Championships have always been held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia.

In 2015, the Elementary and Middle School Championships were held at the Marriott Downtown Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2016, the Elementary, 7th Grade, and 8th Grade Championships were held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. The Hyatt Regency O'Hare also hosted the Elementary and Middle School Championships for 2017 on Memorial Day weekend. In 2018, the Middle School and Elementary National Championships were held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

US Geography Olympiad National Champions[edit]

Varsity Division Champions[edit]

Year Varsity Winner School State
2013 Anton Karpovich Illinois Math and Science Academy  Illinois
2014 Anton Karpovich Illinois Math and Science Academy  Illinois
2015 Kevin Li Westview High School  California
2016 Eugene Wang BASIS Tucson North  Arizona
2017 Kyle Yu Westlake High School  Ohio
2018 Kyle Yu Westlake High School  Ohio

Junior Varsity Division Champions[edit]

Year JV Winner School State
2013 Abhinav Kurada Advanced Math and Science Academy  Massachusetts
2014 Abhinav Kurada Advanced Math and Science Academy  Massachusetts
2015 Karan Menon John Adams Middle School  New Jersey
2016 Kyle Yu Westlake High School  Ohio
2017 Avi Goel Merryhill Middle School (Milpitas)  California
2018 Albert Zhang Buchholz High School  Florida

Middle School Division Champions[edit]

Year Middle School Winner School State
2015 John Phipps Middlesex Middle School  Connecticut
2016 (7th Grade) Rohil Bhinge Nysmith School  Virginia
2016 (8th Grade) Andy Tutuc Canyon Vista Middle School  Texas
2017 Kai Waddell Lux Middle School  Nebraska
2018 (8th Grade) Srikrishna Darbha College Station Middle School  Texas

*Do note that in 2018, 7th and 8th grades were split again

Elementary Division Champions[edit]

Year Elementary Winner School State Grade
2015 Rohil Bhinge Nysmith School  Virginia 6
2016 Samik Bhinge Mosby Woods Elementary  Virginia 5
2017 Siddharth Kammanavar Stratford School  California 6

World Champions at the International Geography Olympiad from the USA[edit]

Year Champion School State
2014 James Mullen Monta Vista High School  California

References[edit]

External links[edit]