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Online spelling bee fills void left by canceled Scripps National Spelling Bee

Posted at 1:17 PM, May 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s a spelling bee generating a lot of buzz in the world of spellers.

“It’s a family effort, both of us are working on it,” said Shobha Dasari. “Our parents have been helping out as well.”

Spelling bees have been a part of siblings Shobha and Shourav Dasari’s lives since elementary school. Both competed at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in years past.

“The fact that that was cancelled was really disappointing, not just to spellers, but also people like us, who are really involved with the bee,” said Shobha, who is now in college.

They run an online spelling website and app called “SpellPundit.” When the National Bee was canceled, they decided to try and fill the void.

“We saw an opportunity to host an online bee, not to replace the National Spelling Bee, but kind of serve as an alternative for those students who wouldn’t be able to participate in it this year,” Shobha said.

It is all taking place in view of judges and proctors online: from the written tests to the spelling of words out loud.

“We’ll be able to watch them and make sure that they’re not referencing any external materials or anything like that,” Shobha said.

More than 300 students signed up – a number that will eventually be narrowed down to four groups of four spellers.

“If you’re one of the four spellers in each of those groups, then you go onto the finals and then in the finals, you spell down until there is one winner,” Shourav said.

There are sponsors and cash prizes involved, including $2,500 for the final winner. The event has been a lot of work for the brother and sister, but they said it’s something they wanted to do.

“The one thing I always say is that the spelling bee community kind of raised us, in a way, and this is our way of giving back to that,” Shobha said.

The winner of the SpellPundit Online Spelling Bee will be crowned on Thursday evening.