The show, hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris, debuted last month. Vinay Ayala, a 12-year-old from Reston, Virginia, competed in the fourth episode, which airs Sunday.
The format is a head-to-head contest in math, geography and spelling between teams of three 8- to 12-year-olds. Vinay and the other kids on his team — Bryan Henroid of Andover, Massachusetts, and Lillian Fisk, 10, of Kingsland, Georgia — didn’t know one another before taping the show, so it was a challenge to bond quickly.
“It was difficult [working with] two kids I had no clue [about] from a different part of the United States who are new [to me], and trying to learn about their qualities and what they’re good at, and trying to strategize our plan for the game,” Vinay told KidsPost.
The game has several parts. There are rapid-fire math calculations that get harder with each correct answer. Another round tests competitors’ ability to memorize and recall facts they wouldn’t ordinarily know — such as the 4,500 daily routes of a particular airline.
There are also brain teasers that you might be able to figure out in 10 minutes. But these kids have only 10 seconds to respond. Try spelling “wholeheartedly” backward.
Vinay couldn’t reveal whether the kids moved on to later rounds. The winning team will take home the “Genius Junior grant.” (NBC did not get back to KidsPost in time for publication to explain what the grant is.)
Many of the kids rattle off lists of accomplishments most adults can’t claim. Several have been admitted to Mensa — a society of people with high IQs — and one 9-year-old can recite the irrational number pi to 50 decimal places.
While he might not have a flashy skill, Vinay found his way onto the game show through his success at the international Future City Competition. That contest asks kids to plan a city that adapts to problems society is facing or will face.
Vinay, who had competed in Future City last year, was the leader of this year’s Edlin School team. He said the experience of working with classmates in a competitive environment helped prepare him for national television.
“We had to work a lot harder this year because we had so many less people. Last year, we had a team of 13, I believe, and this year have six,” Vinay said. “So I had to step up and give them an assist” and help in all the communication.
After multiple rounds of judging and presentation, the Edlin team’s age-friendly city won the grand prize, and all of the members earned a trip to Space Camp this summer.
When the producers for the NBC show went looking for whiz kids across the United States, they turned to the Future City organizers for help.
After a few interviews and tests, Vinay was chosen to be one of 36 kids featured on “Genius Junior.”
When Vinay is not involved in academic competitions, he enjoys typical kid activities such as playing the NBA 2K video-game series and performing magic tricks. He wants to be a genetic engineer when he grows up but hopes you might see him on TV again after “Genius Junior” is over.
“I might try out for Jeopardy,” Vinay said. “I like being on TV — it’s so fun.”