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State Spelling Bee Champion Vies For National Title

May 2004
State Spelling Bee Champion Vies For National Title

State Spelling Bee Champion Vies For National Title

When Biplab Panda tucked his hands into his pockets and carefully spelt out S-E-M-I P-E-R-M-E-A-B-L-E (semi-permeable) at the Georgia State University Student Center on March 19, he joined a growing rank of students of Indian origin who are in the limelight for having made a mark for themselves in the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee Championships.

The winning word catapulted Panda, a 12-year-old 8th grade student of the Fulton Science Academy, to the exalted national levels of the Championships. He beat 21 other participants to become Georgia's State Spelling Bee Champion for 2004. He will represent Georgia in the nationals to be held in Washington DC from May 30 through June 4.

Two contestants represented each district at the state level championship.

Panda will be one of 260 contestants at the nationals. Apart from representations from the 50 contiguous states, there will also be contestants from Jamaica, some of the European countries and elsewhere.

For Panda, who was runner up in the State levels last year, the win is even sweeter, because this year was his last chance to compete, 13 being the cut off age.

The Scripps Howard Spelling Bee starts as a classroom contest in schools around the United States at the end of every year. It then progresses to the school, county, district and state levels before the final contestants for the national championships are chosen.

Delhi born Panda moved to the US when he was just 11/2 years old. A voracious reader, Panda's appetite for reading started with the Dr Seuss books when he was just 21/2, says mother Smita. He has been consistently winning several awards in various subjects since then. He was third place winner in the 2001 National North South Foundation Spelling Bee Championships. Panda has also thrice been State finalist (2002, 2003, 2004) at the Geography Bee Championships organized by the National Geographic Society. In 2002, he came in third at the state levels. Panda also took home the first prize in the Graphic Design category at the recent State Technology Fair.

The champion, who lives with his with his parents Smita and Dilip Panda and toddler brother Vedic in Roswell, wants to be a surgeon when he grows up. An accomplished violinist, he will be graduating suzuki lvl -5 this summer. He is also a vivid chess player and competes in tournaments on a regular basis.

"Being an 8th grader, he is on his own," says Smita, of his preparation for the Spelling Bee nationals. "He tries to put in an hour of study everyday. During weekends he devotes more time."

The 2003 National Spelling Bee champion Sai Gunturi, and third place winner Samir Patel are also of Indian origin.

-Veena Rao

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