Newsletter: October - 2013

Dear NSF Families,

It is hard to believe that another year and season of NSF has already begun. With plans already underway for new NSF programs, we hope the 21st NSF Finals wereeducational and exciting for parents and students alike. NSF continues to excel in serving its participants and their families. This year, for the first time, lists of top rankers were released on Facebook and Twitter in real time, so that families at home could keep up with the buzz of the finals.

Another benefit of NSF that is not always obvious is the relationships that it fosters amongst participants. The friendships and acquaintances that NSF participants make every year at the Finals will prove to be invaluable in the future. As a new college student, having renewed my friendship with many of the people I competed with in NSF contests, I can say that the NSF network will help me feel at home wherever I go. In short, the gathering of contestants at NSF Finals is as valuable socially as it is educationally.

In this issue, we offer you an interview with NSF participant Ashwin Sah, a National MathCounts Finalist, as well as the first article from the 2013 NSF APNA season. You can also read about what’s new with NSF scholarships and meet our newest newsletter team member, Varsha Ramakrishnan.

Here's to another great season of NSF!
Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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Ashwin Sah placed 2nd at Mathcounts Nationals in 2012 and 2013. Ashwin was invited to join the 6 member US team that participated in the 17th Junior Balkan Mathematical Olympiad in Turkey this summer, where he won an individual gold medal.

Shrinidhi: Congrats on your success at MathCounts and for taking the time for this interview! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Ashwin: I am 13 years old and am from Portland, Oregon. I am a freshman at Jesuit High School in Portland.

Shrinidhi: What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Ashwin: I play chess and computer games in my free time.

Shrinidhi: When and how did you first get interested in competitive math?
Ashwin: I became interested in competitive math starting in sixth grade when I joined my school's Mathcounts club.

Shrinidhi: Could you tell us a bit about your association with NSF?
Ashwin: I first participated in the NSF regional math bee in fifth grade and went to nationals that year. It was impressive to see so many talented kids there. Unfortunately my summer schedule did not allow me to participate in future NSF nationals.

Shrinidhi: Tell us a little bit about your experience with MathCounts.
Ashwin: I was pleasantly surprised when I qualified for the Oregon state Mathcounts team in sixth grade. I have made several good friends outside of school through state and national Mathcounts competitions as well as participating as an Oregon team member in ARML (American Regions Mathematics League)

Shrinidhi: What is school like for you? What other subjects do you enjoy other than math?
Ashwin: I attended a public middle school that has a magnet program for math, science, and humanities. From seventh grade onwards I went to the local high school for advanced math classes. Middle school was where I made several friends who were also interested in math and science. I also enjoy the sciences very much.

Shrinidhi: How did you study for the competition? What was a typical study day like?
Ashwin: In sixth grade I signed up for the NSF Mathcounts class. This helped me understand the types and levels of questions that Mathcounts competitions contain. I also practiced with the NSF Mathcounts problem sets, as well as those created by my school coach. The online Mathcounts handbooks were also a great problem resource.

Shrinidhi: What techniques did you use to stay motivated in your studying?
Ashwin: I like math and try to learn it on my own, including the history of mathematics. Having an excellent knowledge in various areas of math that I picked up along the way helped me with Mathcounts as well.

Shrinidhi: What role did your family play in your math contest preparation?
Ashwin: My mom taught me the basics of math when I was very young, which got me interested in mathematics. My dad got me started with learning the basics of algebra. Beyond that, I mostly studied on my own from my elder brother's books but I sometimes asked him when I had questions.

Shrinidhi: Are there any books or resources you recommend to a kid competing in Math Counts?
Ashwin: I highly recommend the Art of Problem Solving math books, even if you're not interested in competition math. The books help your general problem solving ability and promote understanding of concepts as opposed to memorizing formulae.

Shrinidhi: Is there any memory of your math journey that sticks out to you or was a defining moment? If so, could you share it with us?
Ashwin:I have really enjoyed discussing random math problems with my older brother Varun. Those discussions are my fondest memories about math.

Shrinidhi: How did it feel to place at MathCounts? Did you ever realize winning was a possibility? If so, when?
Ashwin: I never went to Mathcounts Nationals with the intention of winning. I always wanted to do the best. I could and be happy with the outcome, because I know that on a given day, any of the top twelve could win Countdown. Luck does play a major part at that level. Making it to Nationals is a very big achievement in itself, and I was very fortunate to have made Nationals all three years and to have placed second two years in a row.

Shrinidhi: What are your future math or academic goals?
Ashwin: I intend to continue to explore advanced math concepts since it brings me enormous joy. I plan to major in either math, science, or engineering.

Shrinidhi: Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?
Ashwin: I hope to be in graduate school at that time.

Shrinidhi: Do you have any final words or advice for our readers?
Ashwin: Try to pursue and enjoy an area that you really love.

Shrinidhi: Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. We wish you the best of luck for your future!
Ashwin: Thank you for the opportunity!

Shrinidhi Thirumalai
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
NSF organized another successful year of APNA (Ambassadors program for NSF Alumni), providing an excellent opportunity for high school students in America to volunteer in India. Below are the experiences of one volunteer from 2013.
For additional details about NSF APNA program, please visit:

I am Vivek Thiyagarajan, a freshman at Moorpark High School, Moorpark. I would like to thank NSF for providing me this amazing opportunity as an APNA volunteer and I would also like to thank Mr. Venkat Gade for providing the materials and other resources.

It all started when my mom was reading the NSF newsletter and she stumbled upon something called APNA. She looked into it with more detail and she told me all about it. She contacted Mr. Gade to start the process. I was ecstatic. Conducting my own spelling bee workshop would be a unique experience, and I knew that I could not let this opportunity fly by. I sent in my application and I was immediately accepted.

My grandfather had got permission from Sri. Sowdeswari Vidhyalaya Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. I met the principal with the workshop materials and we went over my lesson plan for the week.

Teaching an entire class seemed like a daunting task so I was nervous at first. I prepared the materials very carefully and then the day finally came when I would have to go and teach a group of sixty 6th grade students.
The teaching staff were very cooperative. The students assembled in the multipurpose room and they even gave me a microphone so that they could hear me well.

As I started teaching, I was surprised by the involvement and enthusiasm of the children. They would always shout out the answer before I finished the question. This didn't bother me; it just motivated me even more to teach the kids to the best of my ability.

Throughout the four days I covered parts of speech, prefix and suffix, pronouns, nouns, verbs, Greek and Latin roots, adjective and grammar rules. The principal had asked other teachers from school to observe our class.
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The students eagerly learned all of the materials and memorized the words that they wouldbe tested on the final day. When the day of the spelling bee came I could tell that the students were nervous, but they had prepared well. After they finished we collected the papers and started to grade them. We had to give tie breakers for the 4th and 5th place. We gave the top five winners a prize and the top student had gotten 100% on the test! We distributed sweets to everyone. I was happy to see that the kids had so much fun and enjoyed the workshop.

Personally, even though I was apprehensive on the first day, I still had a fulfilling experience in the end. My heartfelt thanks to my Grandfather, my Mom, NSF, Mr. Gade, Principal, Staff and Students of Sri. Sowdeswari Vidhyalaya who made this happen.

Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Team Member
Every time a child in the United States participates in a North South Foundation educational bee, workshop, or online course, another child in India benefits. Based on merit and financial need, NSF provides scholarships to undergraduate students in engineering, medicine, 3-year polytechnic, BVSc, BSc Ag, and B Pharma courses. What started off as one scholarship in 1989 has reached 2,037 scholarships in 2013 - and that number is still growing. Over the past 24 years, NSF has provided more than 7,000 scholarships in order to help students receive the higher education they deserve.
S. Vijayakumar, a 3rd year scholar from NSF's Madurai chapter, expressed heartfelt thanks for the financial support he received from an NSF scholarship:

"I am a NSF scholar studying in 2nd year B.E (EEE) at Anna University of Technology, BIT Campus, Tiruchirappalli. I am going to 3rd year now. College education was a distant dream for me when I passed my 12th examination, because of the economic backwardness of my family. I belong to a lower middle class family comprising five members. Family is maintained by my father who earns a meager amount through selling of sweet meats. If today I am a college student, it is all because of NSF and NSF only. Thanks to the timely award of scholarship I could get into my studies with full confidence and no fear of economic problems. The result is I could secure A grade in the first year, and I am waiting for the results of 4th semester and hope to maintain and improve my performance… I admire the ideals of NSF and I assure that I shall follow suit and support bright and poor students, once I get settled in my life with a decent job."
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The scholarship process begins at the chapter level in India with an announcement inviting eligible students to apply for scholarships. Each India chapter has a coordinator, a volunteer responsible for all activities from forming selection committees, reviewing applications, and interviewing applicants to presenting the scholarship checks at awards ceremonies. ICCs (India Chapter Coordinators) work closely with their US counterparts – volunteers known as "liaisons" who figure out ways to spread the word to applicants. Liaisons also facilitate meetings between scholars and interested US donors.
 Chapter Fresh Renewal Total
1  Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh 101 114 215
2  Tanuku, Andhra Pradesh 5 4 9
3  Vizag, Andhra Pradesh 5 3 8
4  Guwahati, Assam - 3 3
5  Patna, Bihar 9 6 15
6  Chandigarh, Chandigarh - 5 5
7  Bhavnagar, Gujarat 1 1 2
8  Bangalore, Karnataka 83 118 201
9  Mysore, Karnataka* 5 5
10  Kochi, Kerala 14 15 29
11  Pune, Maharashtra 51 81 132
12  Bhubaneswar, Orissa 346 272 618
13  Patiala, Punjab - 7 7
14  Jodhpur, Rajasthan 75 66 141
15  Chennai, Tamil Nadu 90 132 222
16  Madurai, Tamil Nadu 80 95 175
17  Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu 5 18 23
18  Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh* 2 2
19  Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh 29 10 39
20  Kolkata,West Bengal 100 81 181
 On-line Direct 5 - 5
TOTAL 1006 1031 2037
* New Chapter
Sri Ramanathan Iyer offered the following commentary on his experience as an ICC for NSF's Madurai chapter:

"As an NSF coordinator for more than a decade I have benefited immensely through interaction with the younger generation and their motivation. I could see the impact of our support on the students, coming from an economically backward background, who were able to lift their families above the poverty line thanks to NSF. To be a member of NSF’s team in their massive exercise to identify deserving bright and poor students, and develop them to be fit for lucrative jobs, is something great. The immense happiness that I derive from this humanitarian service is beyond description and has no parallel."
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NSF is ready to start the 2013-14 scholarships season with a goal of giving 1250 scholarships to first year students and renewing all current scholarships.

Find out more about our program at

If you'd like to connect to a chapter in India or help start a new chapter send us an email at
NSF Scholarships Team
Hello everyone! I'm Varsha Ramakrishnan, a sophomore from Pleasanton, California, and I have recently joined the editorial team! I have been participating in NSF contests since first grade, and it has played a significant role in my life for these past ten years. I still remember the first time I participated in the NSF, when I was six years old. I was confused and reluctant to enter a competition in which I would be forced to spell words, identify locations, and solve problems. This, I reasoned, must be another method of taking a test; another evaluation of the subjects I had been cajoled and compelled so many times to learn.

How could I, a normal six year old, succeed, and what would happen if I failed, if I didn't receive a prize? Now, in most narratives, the protagonist succeeds, and realizes that they had had the potential for greatness all along. I, however, didn't do so great. I received no recognition in spelling, and when I competed in math, I did not win a trophy.
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I felt disheartened and sad that I had disappointed everyone, but a new resolve had also taken its place within me to prove to everyone that I could win. In second grade I competed in three categories, and waited with bated breath as the results were announced. I had won first in spelling, and third place in math and vocabulary! I was ecstatic, and resolved that I would do even better next year. However, one can never escape the ups and downs of life, and in third grade I barely scraped my way into the nationals. Competing with people from all over U.S.A was a great experience for me, especially when I had entered the final round of the national NSF spelling bee, and managed to rank second. Second? Me? Really? Since then, I won my school's spelling bee three times in a row, progressed to the California state level of the Scripps Spelling Bee, ranked in the top ten nationally in NSF in vocabulary and science, and have never had to cram in the last minute for spelling tests. These contests and this organization have helped me meet new people, learn new things, and most importantly, have fun.

2008-09 2009-2010 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
580 667 922 1449 2037

Though I am not participating in the contests anymore, writing for this newsletter has been a great opportunity to give back to the organization that has so strongly inspired me and many others throughout the world.

Varsha Ramakrishnan
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
Do you have a story, poem, essay, or some artwork to share? Send your submissions to! In addition to your entry, please include a scanned photograph of yourself and the name of your school, your hometown, grade level, and hobbies.


Ramya Auroprem, Sukanya Roy, Shrinidhi Thirumalai, Varsha Ramakrishnan, Madhav Durbha, Ferdine Silva, and Vignesh Kumar


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