The ‘little star’ of the show, undoubtedly from the very start, was Nishi Amanda Uggalle and a standing ovation she bagged, a first in recent times. Crowned Britain’s Brightest Child on the night of March 2 at the Child Genius Competition of Channel 4, the 12-year-old stunned audiences when she spelt ‘neurohypophysis’ without batting an [...]


‘Neurohypophysis’ and a Lankan ‘little star’ shines brightest


The ‘little star’ of the show, undoubtedly from the very start, was Nishi Amanda Uggalle and a standing ovation she bagged, a first in recent times.

Crowned Britain’s Brightest Child on the night of March 2 at the Child Genius Competition of Channel 4, the 12-year-old stunned audiences when she spelt ‘neurohypophysis’ without batting an eyelid and clinched the trophy, nearly as big as she was.

Nishi with her weighty ‘Child Genius’ trophy

“Nishi was happy, but composed and graceful, coming up with the most amazing unplanned acceptance speech,” is how her father, Neelanga, describes the moment of glory to the Sunday Times.

It had been a “very tense final day” for Neelanga and wife Shiromi, as they sat at the edge of their seats and watched Nishi securing 16 points in the ‘specialist round’ giving them hope, while three others got 12 points.

The last round, meanwhile is about who can press the buzzer first, while keeping the answer in the head, says Neelanga, explaining that in the past it had usually been the child who got the first point who had gone on to win the contest. However, on March 2, it was the other child who got it, but then Nishi made good progress, managing to keep a “nice” gap between herself and her contender.

“I was holding Shiromi’s hand and felt her shaking. When Nishi was declared the winner we felt so relieved, happy and proud at the same time……..and then the whole audience gave her a standing ovation, the first time that we have seen it happening in Child Genius and a very rare event in British society,” says Neelanga.

As Nishi said her piece thereafter, her parents had been gripped by emotion, hardly able to hide their tears of happiness.

Soon after, while all the other families remained behind for the celebrations, this family of three, though tired, had driven through the night, getting to Manchester and home at 1 in the morning, as Nishi did not want to miss school the next day. Up Nishi was by 6 a.m. and headed for school and her lessons.

Even though the following weekend they had gone out for a meal, it was their normal routine that they followed. “It was a very low-key celebration and Nishi didn’t ask for anything for winning the competition,” says Neelanga simply.

Nishi’s life course is set — a theoretical physicist she is hoping to be, going into the halls of learning of the august University of Cambridge like her role model, Prof. Stephen Hawking.

That is not all. She fervently hopes that she can become an ambassador and role model for young children, especially girls, to encourage them to pick-up STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths) and IT.

This was the call from Nishi that found her gaining a special place in the hearts of people in Britain and across the world, when with all humility she said that she wished to bring ‘girl power’ to the fore, smashing stereotypical beliefs that STEM are “boy’s only subjects”.

The PLUS last Sunday exclusively reported the story of the first-ever Sri Lankan child, with an IQ higher than famous physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, to get into the final 20 in the Child Genius Competition in Britain.

The testing to select the Child Genius is rigid and robust and it is from Nishi’s parents, Neelanga Uggalle into IT security and Shiromi Jayasinghe, an accountant, both from Padukka, now living in Manchester, that we get a glimpse of it.

The children (9-12 years) who take part in the competition are nominated by schools and organizations after a series of tests, while Channel 4, a British public-service TV broadcaster and MENSA, the High Intelligence Society, also invite child achievers to take part.

From among all — more than 1,000 children — the best 100 undergo a full day of tests to be narrowed down to 30 and another round of testing brings the number down to 20.

For these 20, the competition goes on for six days, with each day having two rounds and low-scoring children being eliminated.

Day 1 – Advanced spellings, requiring knowledge of some of the most complicated words in the English dictionary and then old English for round two, a language believed to be so difficult that it is normally learnt only by academics. Each child gets one hour to remember around 200 old English words.

Day 2 – Maths in the morning and memory and maths activity in the evening. The one who gets the highest points in the morning session gets to go to Day 3 directly with a fast pass. This is what Nishi achieved. In the evening they had one hour to remember stock market share prices and answer maths questions based on that.

Day 3 – Geography, history of the earth in the morning and challenging memory round in which they must memorise a pack of 100 shuffled cards, each with an image of a different world flag. They get one hour to remember the order and repeat it without any mistakes. Nishi managed to remember 37.

Day 4 – Science, covering science knowledge and physics equations and in the evening, one hour to remember Latin names of sea animals and answer questions on them, including how to spell their names.

Day 5 – Anagrams and word definitions, followed by the ‘Sudden Death’ round in the evening to provide spellings. A single mistake ends the round for the contestant and this is why it is called ‘sudden death’. Thereafter, the top 5 scorers of this round go to the finals.

Day 6 – Each contestant has to select a specialist subject, which they need to ‘cover to degree level’. Here the contestant is required to answer up to 20 questions and the top 2 scorers then go head-to-head, with the same question being asked from both and the one who presses the buzzer getting the chance to answer first. The winner is the child who gets to 10 points first.

The quick-fire round
In the first round of the final, Nishi had achieved an “incredible” score of 16 out of 20. In the head-to-head nail-biting finale, competing against 11-year-old William Harwood, she had answered questions across an array of topics including science, mathematics and spelling.
The questions and answers to the quick-fire round were:
Q1: Rearrange the following letters to make a word: PARTAKCHIPA
Q2: In 2011, the first synthetic trachea transplant was achieved by using the patient’s own what?
A2: Stem cells
Q3: 411+854+156+625=
A3: 2046
Q4: Upright plants such as cooksonia first emerged in which geological period?
A4: Silurian
Q5: If a radioactive sample had a half life of eight days, what proportion of the sample would be expected to remain after 16 days?
A5: 25%
Q6: 24 x 9 – 16 x 9 / 8
A6: 225
Q7: What name is given to the period of extreme expan- sion of the universe imme- diately after the big bang?
A7: Cosmic inflation
Q8: What is the name of a long cigar shape mound of till that has been smoothed in the direction of a glacier’s flow?
A8: Gremlin
Q9: Beginning with C what pro- cess do alkanes undergo to make alkenes?
A9: Cracking
Q10: Spell neurohypophysis

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