With the Scripps National Spelling Bee canceled, two teens who both competed in past years are making sure other kids don't miss out.
They're organizing an online bee that will run at the same time the Scripps contest was scheduled for before it was called off due to the coronavirus.
“That’s definitely something I can imagine is really heartbreaking, especially for these spellers who have put the last three, four, five years of their life into this and just like so much time, so much effort, so much energy,” said Shobha Dasari, a freshman in college. “It’s not just a speller who works on this. It’s also their entire family, so it just, it impacts a lot of people.”
“Especially for 8th graders, I think it's just one more chance to, I guess, show their skills, so all the work that they put in the past couple years and especially this year won't just be for nothing,” said Shobha’s brother, Shourav.
Both Shobha and Shourav competed in the national spelling bee when they were in 8th grade, so they know what it’s like for kids who aren’t eligible to compete after this year.
The Dasaris’ competition is called "The SpellPundit Online National Spelling Bee." The format will be similar to the Scripps' bee, with a written test and then semifinal and final oral spelling rounds.
They are taking measures to make sure the spellers aren't getting outside help but say it will ultimately be an honor system.
They're also planning to use hard words from strange parts of the dictionary they say the spellers haven't seen before to avoid a tie.
They know this online contest won't replace having one in person with the experience that comes along with bee week. But after all of their years in the spelling community, they knew they had to put on the event.
“It’s kind of raised us, kind of helped us grow as people and as spellers so yeah, I definitely think being able to do something like this for the next generation of spellers is kind of our way of giving back to this community that raised us,” said Shobha.
"The SpellPundit Online National Spelling Bee " runs May 23 through May 28. The siblings expect around 250 kids from around the country will compete. They plan to stream the finals on the event’s Facebook page.