Park View's Gomez finishes top 10 in RI geography bee


It’s a small world, after all. But for the 51 Rhode Island students who were competing at the 30th annual National Geographic Society Geography Bee it is anything but small.

Held at the Scottish Rite Center in Cranston, on Friday April 6, students had to achieve certain goals before getting to this event.

Earlier school bees were held in schools with fourth through eighth-grade students throughout the state to determine each school champion. School champions then took a qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society.

According to bee coordinator Denise Moretti-Foggo students entered from all over the state, from public, parochial and private schools.

“Students must be in grades 4-8 to enter, the choice to participate is up to every individual school,” she said. “There is a fee. Some do not have the funds. You have to win your school bee and also pass an online test that is submitted to the National Geographic Society in order to be invited to see me at the state level.”

Five students represented Cranston: Aidan Paplauskas, a 4th grader at St. Mary’s School; Henry Cheng, a 6th grader at Western Hills Middle School; Devin Exter, a 6th grader at Hope Highlands Middle School; David Gomez, a 7th grader at Park View Middle School; and Jaymond Lei, an 8th grader at Hugh Bain Middle School.

After registration and the opening ceremonies, there was a preliminary round where the students were broken into three groups, and the questions determined the final 10 contestants.

Of the top 10 students, one got a perfect eight out of eight questions correct, and the rest all scored seven out of eight.

Of those top 10 students, five of them were returnees from last year’s Bee.

Prior to the final round, students were able to take a break, have some food and talk with their families, friends and coaches.

Moretti-Foggo explained the rules for the rest of the bee, and gave a few remarks to the students who were not competing.

“I do want to commend the students who didn’t make it to the finals,” she told the crowd. “I want you to know, that you are all winners already, simply by making it here. Congratulations on that accomplishment.”

Paul Lucier, Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island, was the moderator and explained the rules and the elimination process for the final round.

Students had 15 seconds to give a response. Incorrect pronunciation was allowed, as long as the judges were able to understand what was trying to be said. Contestants were allowed to interrupt the proceedings only two times, either to have a question repeated or for a spelling. Two incorrect answers would get a student eliminated from the competition.

The final 10 contestants included David Gomez, a 7th grade student at Park View Middle School. Alice Dunning, Nate Gray, Jackson Diehl, Richard Vigliotti, Neil Panth, Maximus D. Terra, Aden Memoli, Andrew J. Dieffenbach, Evan M. Jollie rounded out the final contestants.

Each of the finalists stepped up to the microphone and introduced themselves, giving their favorite food as an icebreaker.

The first category of questions dealt with immigration. The second category was about unique places to visit in the United States and the first finalist was eliminated. The next set of questions was a geo-challenge, which prompted three more eliminations.

Another elimination happened with world geography, and two more were eliminated by a second geo-challenge.

The fourth round was a map of Africa, and it had the last elimination.

The last two competitors went into sudden death, with the first wrong answer eliminating the last contestant.

The two finalists were Nate Gray, a sixth grader from Moses Brown School, and Maximus D. Terra, an eighth grader from Alan S. Feinstein Middle School in Coventry.

The final round was three questions, with Terra getting two of the three correct.

The winning question was: ‘During the coldest days of winter, Europe's longest ice road makes it possible to drive between the island of Hiiumaa and the mainland of what country?’

According to Moretti-Foggo, Terra heads to Washington on May 20. The prelims are the 21st and the finals on the 23rd.

To celebrate the 30th annual National Geographic Bee, the cash prize for the top three students in each state was doubled. Terra received $200, the National Geographic Visual Atlas of the World 2nd Edition, and a trip to Washington, D.C. to represent Rhode Island in the National Geographic Bee Championship.

Students from the different competitions that came in second place received $150 and those that come in third received $100.

All participants were given a t-shirt, programs, ribbons, National Geographic Bee pin and pencil.

The answer to the winning question: Estonia.

For more information about the National Geography Bee go to


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