Newsletter: September - 2014


Writing the article in the last newsletter about NSF's Youth Accomplishments – how NSF kids have topped American competitions in math, science, geography, and spelling – got me thinking. For a while now, we have seen NSF kids "beeing the best" in the Scripps National Spelling Bee and even the Geography Bee – but we have never seen this sort of domination across all four major contests, including, unprecedentedly, Mathcounts and the National Science Bowl. It makes me realize that the efforts of North South Foundation have, more than ever before, encouraged the highest excellence in education – both in the US and in India. How the fruits of those efforts increase every year, how this quadruple victory has every chance of repeating itself, how the India scholarship program continues to flourish every year.

I myself was inspired by a generation of NSF kids who attained stardom, when I started participating in contests about 10 years ago – and now I can gladly say that this generational cycle will never end. Each generation of NSF kids reaches new heights and sparks the next generation to do the same.

I feel very fortunate to be on the newsletter team since I can write about these great accomplishments with unrestrained enthusiasm and admiration for the Foundation's doings. I'd like to thank all the volunteers who put in hundreds of thousands of hours every year to NSF. Without their selfless efforts, we would not be where we are today – a spectacular Silver Jubilee.
Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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Another NSF competition year has come and gone, and another group of competitors has earned its place in NSF history. Out of a whopping 13,618 regional competitors, 2,133 were invited to the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, TX to participate in the national finals, and 129 of these placed 10th or higher nationally in their respective categories. We of the NSF editorial team applaud all these wonderful contestants who have worked long and hard to reach this level. The dedication and mastery that these students have shown is praiseworthy. However, if you didn't get there this year, that's okay! Just continue to persevere and you'll definitely improve. And to all of next year's participants and future winners, we wish you good luck!

You can find the top ten scorers in each category of NSF's 25th year anniversary finals at this link: http://www.northsouth.org/public/USContests/Finals/Results.aspx
Varsha Ramakrishnan
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Members
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DAS at finals 2014 - Winners of a different kind


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At the NSF finals, we saw countless hard-working children and bee contest winners – Once again, congratulations to them all for their preparation and hard work. However, we now want to highlight five children who were winners of a different kind – winners for their kindness and motivation to raise money for the NSF scholarships program.

Monish Jampala: GA, Samhitha Yeleti: GA, Sashi Kulatilaka: OH, Aditya Jaire: MD, and Anushree Ramanujam: NC were five children who went around and collected funds for merit scholarships for financial needy students in India. Together they collected $525. This is enough money to give two scholarships through NSF-DAS, changing the lives of two students in India for the better.

The Dollar-A-Square (DAS) is a program that was started in 2003 through which children in the US can help another child in India by raising funds for NSF's India Scholarships program. DAS is for the children by the children. The Pledge Sheet is very simple. It has 100 squares and each square is worth a dollar. By going around the neighborhood and asking family friends and classmates parents, children can easily fill in the squares. Children can ask for as little as a dollar. Usually donors come up with at least $5 if they explain the cause. Bee participants can gain free access to NSF's on-line games when they complete 100 squares.

This year NSF gives the opportunity for children to "Bee the helping hand" and help raise 25 scholarships for 25 years. We need 23 more. You can help by encouraging your child to try a different kind of Bee – the giving Bee.

Link for pledge sheet: http://www.northsouth.org/public/kidscorner/docs/PledgeSheet.pdf

Shrinidhi Thirumalai
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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This year, NSF kids achieved an unprecedented first-place finish in the National Science Bowl competition at the middle school level. Newsletter team member Ramya Auroprem checked in with Abhijeet Sampangi (Abhi) and Snigdha Allaparti, the two NSF participants from Boston, Massachusetts about how they accomplished the feat.


Ramya: Tell us about the formation of your team.
Abhi: Our entire team came together because of past connections we had with each other. I knew Snigdha from NSF science competitions where we competed for four years. Snigdha and I were the first definite team members.

Snigdha: Our journey to the National Science Bowl competition began two years ago, when we were invited to join as a club team when one of the schools dropped out last minute. Abhi and I regularly participated in NSF competitions and we decided to form a team and this chance gave us to get prepared in 5 days, and despite this, we still placed third in the region. Following that effort, Abhi and I decided that we would continue this the next year by building up a stronger team.

Abhi: We knew that they needed kids strong in math, since the National Science Bowl had a good deal of math questions too. I reached out to Michael Ren and Justin Chang. I knew Michael Ren as a math whiz from elementary school, and Justin Chang as a prodigy from an after-school math program that we both attended. I emailed them and they both agreed to join. When our first meeting was held, something amazing happened. Every team member realized they knew one another. Though I knew Justin and Michael as old friends, Snigdha knew them as well because they all went to a program called Idea Math on the weekends. So miraculously, we all knew each other, and this further solidified the trust in our team that would take us to the top. Alice, Michael's sister, came later to be a part of our team as a back up to go on stage if one of us got sick and could not attend parts of the competition.

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Ramya: Where did your interests in science begin, and what got you interested in the Science Bowl in particular?
Abhi: My interest in science began in fourth grade. By the third grade, I had knowledge in many areas, but didn't like any yet in particular. Then fourth grade came. I had an amazing teacher, who somehow made me love learning. It was like I had opened my eyes to a strange place never seen. I began to notice things I never used to care about: the grass swaying in the wind, a bug crawling up a blade of grass, the way the bug used its legs to climb, the shape of the hooks it used to dig into each grass blade. I noticed nature as a subtle force, and I wanted to know how everything worked. Coincidentally, I competed in my first science competition in fourth grade, the NSF Science Bee. That competition gave me a goal to work toward, and I achieved third place. That NSF competition really helped me start off an epic journey. Science Bowl however came later in middle school where I was simply looked for any competition science-related and Snigdha and I stumbled across the science bowl. It was simply was one of the only group academic science competitions to do.

Snigdha: My interest in science came at a very young age. I've been fascinated with this subject and my passion for science will continue to increase as time goes on. My mom was the one who first mentioned the idea of science bowl to me and formulated the idea to start a team for the competition. With continued inspiration from my parents, I doubled my efforts.

Ramya: How did you train for the buzzer format of the Bowl? Was there a specific strategy your team used?
Abhi: We actually trained using model buzzers that we bought online and sample questions from the National Science Bowl website. When our team practiced sample questions with the buzzer, we competed against one another or split into teams. Also, we watched all previous science bowl matches available online so we could really understand the format and the flow of the game.

Snigdha: We had many strategies as a team which helped us throughout the competition. One strategy that we had was to answer a multiple choice question before the choices were read if we felt strong about it.

Abhi: Eventually we trained our reflexes to be fast enough to almost always never let the moderator finish the question before we would buzz to answer. How fast you pull out the probable answer counts more than how much you know about the subject.

Ramya: What was your team dynamic? Did any of the team members specialize in any particular subjects?
Abhi: Snigdha and I are strong in general science, so we took the bonus questions on biology and Earth and Space science. Michael and Justin are very strong in math. Physics, chemistry and energy are new to all of us, so we all worked together with parents as coaches to make each of strong in those subjects. As a captain I tried my best to dwell on all subjects as much as possible except math. In this way, I could be comprehensive and help everyone on the team.

Snigdha: Although we all had different subjects to work on, we would sometimes answer questions that weren't our assigned subjects. I like all the subjects, but my individual favorite subjects were biology and physics. I liked the application of formulas in physics and I have been fascinated with biology for a long time.

Ramya: Could you talk about your 4th place finish in the Model Car Competition?
Abhi: It was a very long tedious engineering process. The US Department of Energy provided us with some base materials, and we had to think of designs to make a mini model car. There were many details, steps, numerous tests, and practice runs. But eventually as a team we made the car the best that we thought we could make it in the available time. On top of this we had to make an engineering document about the car with details of our work with photos. Being first timers with no guidance at all, it consumed a lot of our time. We named our car the Firebolt 5000. In terms of design, we got fourth place in the country, I think our in depth of engineering document and careful explanation of the part of the car and how we used it to better mechanical advantage has helped to achieve. Speed wise we only reached top 15 in the country. Later we found that a minor flaw in applying glue reduced its speed. It was really amazing that how much we learned and we are proud of our work, but there was some truly great competition and amazing designs, and a lot of fun!

Ramya: What are the NSF contests you participated in? How did they affect your participation in the Science Bowl?
Snigdha: I participated in the math and science contests of the NSF competition. Both these competitions have helped me strengthen my skills in these respective subjects. This exposure enabled me to prepare and perform better in the National Science Bowl competition.

Abhi: I have participated in the following NSF competitions: Spelling Bee, Math Bee, Science Bee, and Vocabulary Bee. Out of all, Science was always my number one favorite bee and the one I invested most of my time in. Frankly without NSF, I would not be part of the Team Champions that won National Science Bowl. The Science Bee that NSF provided was the one goal I worked toward every year. That one goal helped me build a solid base that I could not have built anywhere else.

Ramya: Do you plan to participate in high school Science Bowl competitions?
Abhi: Unfortunately each one of us are going to a different high school. I am not optimistic that I can find a good team from my high school. From next year, the National Science Bowl will not be allowing mixed school teams. This means that all the students on one team must be from the same school. So I probably will not be competing in the high school version of Science Bowl next year. However, I will be participating in other science competitions, including Brain Bee.

Snigdha: I plan to participate in the high school science bowl competition because of my endless passion in science. Moreover, National Science Bowl is “a competition like no other”. My high school is offering this as a club and I will take this as an opportunity to participate and continue expanding my knowledge..

Ramya:What are your career goals? Do you feel that participating in the Science Bowl has changed them significantly?
Abhi: I want to be a physician and part time neuroscientist in the research field. Science Bowl has not changed my career goals, but strengthened them. This success only fuels my drive to achieve higher and learn more about the medical field. After all, it is Science Bowl, with science based questions. This success gave me more drive and brightened the path I have been hoping to follow for so long.

Snigdha: I also plan to become a physician just like both my parents. The National Science Bowl competition has not changed my plans, but the competition has definitely inspired me to continue in the same path as my love for biology will only continue to grow and strengthen.

On behalf of NSF, we would like to heartily congratulate Abhijeet and Snigdha on this remarkable accomplishment and thank them for being an inspiration to the entire NSF community.
Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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The NSF Mentorship program pairs bright, talented college students who have recently navigated the college admissions process with high school students who could benefit from having a mentor coach and advise him/her through these formative years. The mentor-mentee relationship is virtual (through mutually convenient monthly phone/skype sessions) as well as through e-mail for follow-ups. The expected monthly time commitment for mentors is 2-3 hours. Mentors may be asked for help identifying appropriate opportunities, resources to prepare for exams/courses, or information about college life. In return for receiving a mentor, the mentee's family makes one $250 donation to the North South Foundation, the value of one scholarship for a deserving student in India. Mentors will be paired with mentees based on mutual interests (i.e. Pre-meds will be paired with mentees interested in medicine, etc.).

The principle behind our program is that NSF alumni in college (or recent graduates) could provide invaluable advice to a lucky high school student, and enable a deserving child in India attend a year of college in the process. The program starts in October and ends May 2015. If you're interested in being a mentor, register here:http://tinyurl.com/mgbwba4, or visit us on the web at http://www.northsouth.org/public/uscontests/mentorship.aspx.
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Do you have a story, poem, essay, or some artwork to share? Please send an e-mail with the attachments to nsf-editor-team@googlegroups.com. 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.

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

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