This week, National Harbor, Md., was swarmed by more than 560 elementary and middle schoolers who took to the stage to compete in the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee. This year’s bee moved into “uncharted territory” as round 18 commenced, according to the official pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, who said that they may run out of words difficult enough to challenge the remaining finalists.
After 3 buzzing preliminary rounds, 5 high-flying finals rounds, and 12 stinging championship rounds, a record eight cochampion spellers were left standing.
None of the words given to the spellers were easy, but some of the competitors earned their stripes with Earth and space science words. From fossils to minerals to meteorology to Mars, these geoscience words from the bee will get your brain buzzing.
Tardigrade: four-legged microscopic invertebrate
Microscopic water bears couldn’t bring down Nicole Chowdhury.
Dolomite: calcium magnesium carbonate mineral
Honey Advani was solid as a rock spelling this component of compact limestone.
Stibnite: sulfide mineral containing antimony
Jeremiah Markose wasn’t antimon-ated by this slate-gray mineral.
Areology: the study of Mars
Vikram Goddla showed that his spelling skills weren’t rusty (like Mars’s surface).
Pumice: pockmarked volcanic glass
This word couldn’t grind down Sophia Grierson’s confidence—it was smooth sailing.
Cirrocumulus: high-altitude rounded clouds
Correctly spelling this word had finalist Joseph Moran floating on a cloud.
Fluviatic: belonging to rivers or streams
Connor Greally’s spelling on this one didn’t quite flow, but things will get better downstream.
Frontogenesis: two air masses making a front
When this word collided with finalist Navneeth Murali, there were no stormy skies—just sunshine.
Ornithichnite: fossil imprint of a bird
Pavani Chittemsetty left a lasting impression by correctly spelling this one.
Chernozem: dark-colored zonal soils
After avoiding karst’s pitfalls earlier in the week, Aritra Banerjee kept it cool with this one—as cool as the climates these soils are found in.
Tufan: violent storm
Pranav Chandar was definitely tufan-ough for this one.
Bremsstrahlung: radiation from a charged particle’s rapid slowdown
This one didn’t slow down Saketh Sundar. He charged right on ahead.
Omphacite: a green variety of pyroxene
After clear skies with “frontogenesis” earlier in the day, Navneeth Murali put the “omph” in this championship round word.
Paulopost: changes in igneous rock after consolidation
Change is good: With her first geoscience word of the bee, Shruthika Padhy consolidated her place in round 12.
Trachyte: volcanic rock with potash feldspar
Sohum Sukhatankar “feld” that he was “spar”-ed a tough elimination with this one.
Allothimorph: bits of metamorphic rock with original crystal boundaries
Another rock-solid spelling from the mineral dictionary from Sohum Sukhatankar in round 14.
Cytherean: about the planet Venus
Saketh Sundar’s spelling of this round 15 word was out of this world.
Tjaele: permanently frozen ground
Rishik Gandhasri didn’t freeze on this round 16 word.
Moazagotl: clouds on a mountainside in warm, dry conditions
Warmed up after 16 prior rounds, Shruthika Padhy floated through this one.
How well would you have done in an all-geoscience spelling bee? Get together with your science hive and give it a try. It’s sure to bee a good time.
—Kimberly M. S. Cartier (@AstroKimCartier), Staff Writer