Hanscom student creates buzz during geography bee

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Foster
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Not many fifth graders can go up against eighth graders academically and stand their ground, but that is not the case for one of Hanscom's own students.

Daniel McIllece, a student at Hanscom Middle School, was recently chosen as a semifinalist by the National Geographic Society to compete in the 2013 Massachusetts National Geographic Bee.

Bees were held in schools with fourth- through eighth-grade students to determine each school's winner. The winners then took a qualifying test and the top 100 scores for each state, as well as the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Dependents School and U.S. territories all competed at the state level.

Daniel's father, Lt. Col. David McIllece, 46th Test Squadron, Det. 1, commander, understands the importance of children being educated in geography.

"The realities of our interconnected world today demand that our children have a greater understanding of geography in all its forms," said McIllece. "Economics, information, the environment, social and cultural matters, science, even our national defense - all are impacted by influences and forces across our country and the around the world. What we don't know can hurt us, as the saying goes."

When it came to studying for the bee, it was not considered much of a hardship because Daniel has had a longtime love for the subject. He explained his favorite part of geography was learning about the different physical features there are, where things are and what things are happening throughout the world.

"He would bring me an atlas or world map and ask to be quizzed," said McIllece. "I would look up an obscure place or feature and he would try to find it. We believe it is his natural curiosity and interest that has made him such a budding young geographer."

The state finals were held at Worcester Academy, Mass., on April 5, with McIllece being one of the youngest participants in the competition.

"He got off to a great start by giving correct answers in each of the first four rounds, including one round where neither his mother, brother nor I knew the answer," McIllece said. "As the questions increased in difficulty, he missed a few but finished strong with several correct responses."

Daniel went into the competition excited, nervous and a little worried.

"My favorite part was when I was actually answering the questions during the actual bee," Daniel said. "I was surprised at how much easier they were than I thought they would be. I thought they would be much harder...at first but then they got harder later!"

Ultimately, only one child from his round advanced, but this is not deterring Daniel from starting to prepare for next year's competition.

"If I have the chance to compete again next year, I definitely will!" he said.