Adam Rusak, of Gaithersburg, competing in National Geographic Bee

Gaithersburg resident Adam Rusak is one of nine whiz kids competing in Thursday’s National Geographic Bee in Washington and he’s hoping to take home the crown.

The Lakelands Park Middle School student got his first atlas at age four and hasn’t taken his eyes off of it since.

“It's not just something I can read for five minutes and that's it,” he said.

Now, at 13-years-old, Rusak says memorizing the globe isn’t homework. It’s his hobby.

“It's just interesting to discover all these new places,” he said.

Many of these places, most people have never even heard of.

“We have the river Nester which is on the border of Ukraine and Maldova,” Rusak said.

A recent poll conducted by National Geographic found 47 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 34 couldn’t identify India on a world map. Six out of ten of those polled didn’t know where Iraq was either, and about half failed to find Mississippi on a map of their own country - findings that make Rusak quite the anomaly.

National Geographic Bee Director Mary Lee Elden says thats what the competition is all about.

“I think these kids have a bigger view of the world, but we can all of us just learn a little bit more,” she said.

“Even if we could inspire other people just to learn their areas, their countries, their counties ... to know more about the world in which they live, then they can make better decisions down the road,” Elden said.

Rusak said buying a globe helped him discover his life goals. When asked what he wanted to be when grows up, he replied, "well most likely, maybe a meteorologist. I’m also interested in science.”

"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek will host the finals as students compete for a chance to win scholarship money, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and the chance to represent the U.S. at the World Championship in Russia in 2013.

The finals will be televised on National Geographic Channel and later on public broadcast stations.

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