Since Conlan Murphy was 5 years old he has spent hours studying maps, globes and atlases.
"I look at them for a long time and get a mental map of what country goes where and what the capital is and such," said the Langston Hughes School sixth-grader.
All of the time finally paid off for the geography whiz. On April 4, he tied for fourth in the Kansas Geographic Bee, his first bee.
"I think it's a big achievement," Conlan said. "I think I'm going to try again next year. It was just fun to be able to compete in that."
One of his teachers, Kathy Copeland, said she couldn't be prouder of Conlan.
"Just the fact that he took the risk and went whether he had tied for fourth or not done well at all, I still would have been proud of him because I think it really takes some guts on a kid's part to get up in front of all those people and put yourself on the line, so I'm real proud of him."
For Conlan, it was also a confirmation that his passion could be useful. He enjoys watching the History Channel.
"They give historical maps you can absorb," he said.
He prefers older maps so he can make historical comparisons with newer ones. He recently traded his own newer globe for the school's older globe because he wanted the older one at home.
"I like historical geography a lot, and that's part of the geography bee," he said. "Historical, cultural, political - and those are the things I'm interested in the most, looking at where the countries are, the history of that country, what is that country called 100 years earlier?"
Part of the intrigue in the past comes from wondering what "could happen in the future," he said.
He was among 100 competitors from fourth to eighth grade in the state bee. The state winner, Trevor Eggenberger, a fifth-grader from Wichita, will travel to Washington, D.C., in May for the national bee.
His teacher and his grandmother, Colleen Murphy, both said he's unique in his aspirations to learn about the world, at least for his age. Colleen Murphy said he wants to be a paleo-anthropologist.
"I just hope he keeps rolling," she said.