Karan Menon's middle school may be in Edison, New Jersey ... but he knows what's mined on Minnesota's Mesabi Range.
So in the semi-finals of the National Geographic Bee on Wednesday, the 14-year-old wouldn't take no for an answer.
As USA Today reports, when Menon was asked what metal-bearing mineral is found on the Mesabi Range, his answer – "taconite" – was rejected because judges were looking for "iron ore."
Taconite, as self-respecting Rangers know, is a type of iron ore.
So when Menon pressed the National Geographic folks on the issue, they relented and credited him with a correct answer. He then cruised through the final round without a miss to win the championship.
As dazzling as his knowledge of the world is, this middle schooler's readiness to question the authorities was also clearly essential to his victory.
Speaking about his appeal of the Mesabi question, Menon told the Associated Press:
“I was 100 percent sure. I didn’t know why I had been marked wrong, so I decided to speak up for myself and challenge the question.”
Menon told the AP that in the run-up to Wednesday's competition he was studying geography for eight hours a day and getting help from a coach who had worked with previous winners of the National Geographic Bee.
After he was crowned the geography bee champion of New Jersey in April, Menon sat down for an interview with TV Asia USA.
Iron ore vs. taconite
Taconite is a low-grade iron ore that was ignored or discarded by mining companies in the days when high-grade iron was plentiful, a taconite primer from Minnesota's DNR explains.
More recently, scientists with the University of Minnesota developed better methods of extracting the ore from taconite into pellets that are shipped to steel mills and have given Minnesota's Iron Range new life.
Northeastern Minnesota's rocks are among the oldest in the world, dating from a time when an inland sea covered the middle of North America. The Grand Rapids Herald-Review reported this spring that experts with the Science Museum of Minnesota are conducting an ongoing study of the region's geology.