Newsletter: August - 2015

This year, as every year, I find myself equally amazed and proud that North South Foundation contestants continue to shine under the spotlight. The 2015 Scripps co-champions, Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, KS and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, MO, are both NSF alums and a total of 42 NSF participants (a record 15 percent of all Scripps finalists) headed to Washington D.C. this week to compete.

NSF students continue to excel all-around – this year, 12 NSF students made it to the National Geographic Bee Finals. First and second place were taken by Karan Menon from Edison, NJ and Shriya Yarlagadda from Grand Blanc, Michigan, respectively, both NSF contestants. The list does not stop here, as 19 NSF children also participated in the National Mathcounts Championship in Boston in May. On behalf of NSF, the newsletter team heartily congratulates all of these individuals for their well-deserved achievements.

In this issue, as we transition from the school year to summer, you will find suggestions for summer activities like community service as well as some study tips for those of you headed to the 2015 NSF Finals in Columbus, OH. We also interview eighth grader Neha Middela, a longtime NSF participant who has achieved success in not one, but two academic contests – Neha reached finalist status in the 2013 National Geographic Bee and the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.. We hope you enjoy the articles and wish all NSF families a happy end of the school year and summer!

Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
As mentioned in the editorial, NSF participants continue to not only qualify for, but excel in national high-stakes competitions. Here, we would like to recognize all NSF participants who qualified for these competitions in 2015.

2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Meera Suresh, CA
Sarika Rau, CA
Anika R. Malayappan, CT
Arjun Jagjivan, CT
Siyona Mishra, FL
Trishala Kumar, FL
Vaishnavi Suren, FL
Monisha Mahadevan, GA
Jairam Hathwar, NY
Shashwat Patel, NY
Sravanth Malla, NY
Srinath Mahankali, NY
Lipika Narisetti, OH
Manu Nair, OH

Aniket Nuthalapati, IL
Tejas Shyamsundar, IL
Uma Kasichainula, IL
Ashwin Prasad, IN
Kushala Madduru, KA
Vanya Shivashankar, KA
Tara Singh, KY
Neha Middela, MI
Aakash Narayan, PA
Shobha Dasari, TX
Siddharth Krishnakumar, TX
Smrithi Upadhyayula, TX
Ankita Vadiala, VA
Shiv Lamba, VA

Gokul Venkatachalam, MO
Dev Jaiswal, MS
Akshra Paimagam, NC
Ashrita Vadlapatla, NC
Rohan Sachdev, NC
Arushi Kalpande, NH
Anish Kumar, NM
Harshita Shet, NY
Tejas Muthusamy, VA
Trisha Balakrishnan, VA
Ayush Noori, WA
Ashwin Sankrithi, WI
Meghna Datta, WI
Varun Kukkillaya, WV

2015 National Mathcounts Championship

Akash Anickode, AZ
Anjalie Kini, CO
Prastik Mohanraj, CT
Abhinav Ratnagiri, DE
Saaketh Vedantam, FL
Viraj Maddur, FL
Roshni Padhi, IL

Ritvik Illindala, KA
Chinmay Krishna, KA
Chandrahaas Kona, KY
Ashish Kalakuntla, NV
Ashwin Agnihotri, NJ
Sruthi Parthasarathi, OH
Saagar Basavaraju, OK

Tarun Martheswaran, UT
Neeyanth Kopparapu, VA
Ajit Kadaveru, VA
Anusha Sahai, WI
Samik Partha, WI

2015 National Geographic Bee

Madhavan Krishnan, CA
Rohan Kanchana, DE
Rishi Nair, FL
Chinmay Patil, KA

Pranav Kanmadikar, KY
Abhinav Karthikeyan, MD
Shriya Yarlagadda, MI
Karan Menon, NJ

Arnav Patra, NY
Suyash Dixit, OH
Ashwin Sivakumar, OR
Tejas Badgujar, PA

Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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Eighth grader Neha Middela started her path of success in first grade with NSF. Since then, Neha’s interest in the subject of geography has blossomed. Two years ago, Neha placed 9th in the National Geographic Bee and continues to be an active participant in the competition. “I think that because of the geography bee, I’m more curious about everything,” she said. “I doubt I would have been exposed to geography and done so well if it weren’t for NSF.” However, Neha’s success didn’t end there. This year, Neha is proud to be representing Michigan’s Oakland Press in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Excelling in one subject is hard enough; developing several talents is even more impressive. Although Neha says that she is “still new to the whole spelling bee,” the skills she’s developed through her many years in NSF and her “natural intelligence,” according to an article about her published by the Oakland Press, have helped her through all sorts of endeavors.

Malavika: Tell the readers about yourself. What are your hobbies and interests?
Neha: I live in Bloomsfield Hills, Michigan. I’m an eighth grader at Detroit County Day Middle School. I am learning Kuchipudi dance, and I like to draw. I also write; I’ve written for competitions like the Scholastic Writing Contest. At school, I do Science Olympiad and Quiz Bowl.
M: How did you become introduced to NSF? How has NSF helped you with your academic endeavors?
N: I started in first grade because a lot of people at my church were doing it. I’ve been doing it every year since first grade. I have taken part in almost all the NSF competitions I am eligible for. I think that NSF is really cool in the sense that it offers multiple competitions and I’ve gotten to try them all. I doubt I would have been exposed to (spelling or geography) or done as well in them if it weren’t for NSF.
M: How did your interest in geography develop?

N: The first time I was interested in the geography bee was when I was in first grade when I (competed in) geography, spelling, and math at NSF. I didn’t do that well in spelling or math but I got 1st place in geography, so I guess I started to like it. I came 1st in the NSF Junior Geography Bee and I’ve placed in the Senior Geography bee a couple years. And eventually, I went to the national level of the National Geographic bee and placed in the top 10 when I was in sixth grade.
(Editor’s note: Like the Scripps spelling bee, the National Geographic bee starts with a school-level bee. The school-level winner becomes eligible to take a state-wide qualifying test. The top 100 scorers then compete in the state bee. Neha has placed in the top three at the state bee these past three years. Her first place win in 2013 qualified her to go to Washington DC to represent Michigan in the National Geographic Bee, where she tied for 9th.)
M: What has been your takeaway from your many years in the Geography Bee? What was your greatest accomplishment?
N: I think that because of the geography bee, I’m more curious about other things; about the world, in particular. I’m more inclined to look at the news, and I really just have a better understanding of the world. I feel that my greatest accomplishment was getting 9th place in the National Geographic Bee because I worked very hard for that.

M: What are some of the challenges you have faced when competing in the Geography Bee? How have you overcome them?
N: After a while, it’s really about maintaining focus and interest in the subject after multiple years of studying it. Also, staying encouraged after a year that you didn’t do as well can be hard. But I feel that you get a different understanding of the bee (after a while.) (At first), for me, it was all about winning, but in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade (I) began to study what interested me. Even if I don’t match my accomplishments one year, I am still proud of myself.

M: How have your experiences with the Geography Bee compared with those at the Spelling Bee?
N: I feel I’m lucky to have had the experience so that I can compare both of them because I’m very new to the spelling bee and didn’t prepare as hard. I feel that spelling and geography are similar, not just because they’re both bees, but because although they’re not something you study much in school, you can really delve into them. In geography, there are connections to be made with places, and in spelling, there’s so many connections between the words.

M: You’ve said before that your love of reading helps you with spelling. What are your favorite books and authors?
N: I like a lot of books. My favorite books are The Book Thief, the Ugly series, and Harry Potter. John Green and J.K. Rowling are my favorite authors.

M: What are your future goals and aspirations?
N: I’m not sure yet, but I want to be something in which I can travel a lot, like a diplomat or a Foreign Service officer, because I love learning about the world.

M: What advice would you share with other students who aspire to compete in the Spelling Bee and Geography Bee?
N: Even if you don’t win the competition, you will gain a lot of confidence for competing multiple times, especially in NSF, other than the knowledge you will get. While I’ve just started developing spelling strategies, a great study tool for the Geography bee is the app National Geographic World.

M: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Good luck with your future endeavors.
N: Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

(Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, where Neha tied for 50th place out of 285 spellers.)
Malavika Kannan
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Members
        Time flies when you're having fun... or when you're studying for something. I'm sure you all know the feeling of panic that approaches during the days before a test or competition, as you frantically scramble to stuff as much information into your crowded brain as possible. We still have four months until the NSF National Finals, but those weeks can pass faster than you'd ever imagine, and it's always best to study as much as you can ahead of time. So whether you're competing in order to do better in school, impress your friends, fulfill your ambitions, or just for the fun of it, here are some study tips:
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  • Try to study alone: friends can sometimes be helpful, but most of the time, you'll just end up getting distracted.
  • Make flashcards or use an online flashcard system like Quizlet.
  • Wear a certain perfume or lotion while studying and wear it again during the competition. Though this may sound like superstition, it actually provides you with an extra memory cue to help recall information.
  • Get a good luck charm and keep it with you during the competition. Charms can help improve your self-confidence and keep you in a positive mindset, increasing your recall ability.
  • Keep a journal of information related to your subject. Writing information down will help you remember it, and you'll be able review it later.
  • And lastly, don't forget to take breaks! If you study too much at once, you won't retain the information.
Along with any methods you are currently using, these tips can help you improve your memory encoding and recall abilities. Good luck, and happy studying! :)
Varsha Ramakrishnan
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
Do you have a story, poem, essay, or some artwork to share? Please send an e-mail with the attachments to In addition to your entry, please send in a scanned copy of your photograph, name of your school and city, your grade level, and your hobbies.


Ramya Auroprem, Shrinidhi Thirumalai, Malavika Kannan, Varsha Ramakrishnan, Ferdine Silva, and Madhav Durbha


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