1. Timis County shares its name with a tributary of the Danube and is located in the western part of which European country?

2. Name this eastern European capital city, where a flight from the southeast would approach the city by flying over the Rhodope Mountains.

3. Name this city in Oceania, the largest on South Island, where a flight from the west would approach the city by flying over the Southern Alps.

If you're stumped, you're not alone! For 55 fourth- to eighth-graders, though, these sorts of questions represented the culmination of months of hard work studying maps and absorbing geographic knowledge.

Earlier today I had the honor of speaking at the championship round of the 2008-2009 National Geographic Bee — moderated by Jeopardy!’s Alex Trebek for the 21st year. This year, Google Earth is sponsoring the Bee in support of its mission to raise awareness and support of geography education. Held at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C. headquarters and broadcast on public television stations across the country, the competition inspires and challenges students to better understand the world around them. 

Eric Yang, who didn't miss a single question in the finals, won on the third question of a tiebreaker round by answering the first question above. Eric, a 7th grader from Texas, has already scored 2200 on his SATs!

It wasn't just the students who came away from the day re-energized and excited about geography. I was also lucky enough to meet a number of passionate educators like Rebecca Montgomery, a teacher from Mississippi, who administered the state bee there this year and told me that "the bee had a tremendous impact on our schools this year and I know now what we need to do to get kids ready to learn geography."

Here at Google, we're always excited to see how innovative teachers are using tools like Google Earth and Maps to engage students by putting the world's geographic information at their fingertips. I'm particularly happy to have been part of the Bee today because geography and mapping were such a big part of what led me to help create Google Earth. I'm not the only Googler who fell in love with maps at an early age, though. Check out this video to see how some of my fellow mapmakers started down the path that eventually brought them to their current profession:

We'll be watching to see what lies ahead for today's passionate young geo whizzes. Congrats again to all the Bee competitors, and happy exploring!

Answers: 1. ɐıuɐɯoɹ 2. ɐıɟos 3. ɥɔɹnɥɔʇsıɹɥɔ