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Scottsdale middle schooler finds his way to National Geographic Bee

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WASHINGTON – Cameron Danesh said he didn’t do anything extraordinary to prepare for the state and national rounds of the National Geographic Bee – just examined maps of the world, like always.

“It was very simple,” said Cameron, 11. “I just looked at maps, Wikipedia, (and) articles.”

It’s what the Scottsdale middle-schooler usually does anyway, said his dad, Sharam Danesh, who said Cameron is prone to “reading maps for fun.”

That hobby earned the sixth-grader from Mountainside Middle School a trip to Washington where he represented Arizona in the national bee after finishing ahead of hundreds of students in statewide competitions to get here.

The bee, sponsored by Google and hosted by National Geographic, is now in its 25th year. The goal of the competition is to inspire an interest in geography among elementary and middle-school students and “encourage a lifelong passion for learning about the world and its many wonders,” according to organizers.

The bee starts at the school level with  students in fourth through eighth grades competing to advance to the state level, where an online competition is held. Only one student from each state goes on to the national level to compete for a chance to win a $25,000 scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

While this was Cameron’s first trip to the nationals, it was not his first try at the bee. He competed at his school in fourth grade, and again in fifth grade when he finished sixth in the state competition.

This year, he got to the state contest and topped 100 other students for the right to represent the state at the National Theater in Washington.

“It felt good to win” the state title, Cameron said.

Although he felt a little nervous he made sure to “breathe in and out,” and focus on the questions.

He faced nine questions in the preliminary round on Monday before answering four wrong – the point at which contestants are eliminated.

By Wednesday, he had already forgotten most of the questions that took him out. He remembered one being about an island off the coast of Honduras and that the answer – Roatan Island – came to him right after he was eliminated.

“I knew what it was after,” Cameron said. “One of the questions I answered Finland, and I got lucky I guessed right.”

Even though Cameron did not make it out of the preliminary round, he watched the rest of the competition and the family planned to stay and do some sight-seeing before heading back to Scottsdale on Friday. His dad said he is still proud of Cameron and how far he has come.

“We’re very happy to be here,” said Sharam Danesh. “We all have learned a lot, and it has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”