AUSTIN (KXAN) - Eleven-year-old Jonathan Shoemaker knows stuff. He's been proving that for years now as a regular competitor in something called the " National Academic Quiz Tournaments ," or "Quiz Bowls" for short.
"You have two teams at one time," Jonathan said, "four people for each team. Each person has a buzzer and a moderator reads you a question. And when you know it, you buzz in and you answer."
The boy seems born for the game.
"I can always do well at it," he said. "When you actually get out there and you go to these tournaments, it's actually pretty fun because you're competing against other kids and you want to see who has more knowledge. Especially if you win, it makes you feel a lot better."
If a team does win, though, its members go home with little more than a big dose of pride, or the occasional plaque or trophy.
But in fact, Jonathan, a sixth-grader at Holy Family Catholic School , has accumulated a multitude of plaques, medals and trophies which he displays in his bedroom in the family home in North Austin.
Some of them testify to the boy's skill in sports, but he earned most of them in academic contests like the Quiz Bowls.
"I'm really into competition," Jonathan said. "I like to be competitive. For me, it's just makes it a more fun experience."
The student's sisters, Emily, 13, and eight-year-old Jessica, are similarly inclined.
"They do a lot of the competitions, too," said their brother, "so they're in it right with me."
But when family father David Shoemaker saw an online notice, inviting children to try out for the 2013 "Kids Week" edition of the popular TV game show, Jeopardy , he immediately thought of his son. For his part, Jonathan was a bit skeptical.
"It's going to be a long shot," the boy recalls thinking, "because there are a lot of kids, a lot of smart kids out there."
Still, Jonathan was intrigued. So using last year's Kids Week Jeopardy questions online, the father-son team dove right into practice drills. Jonathan also uses age-appropriate quiz books and materials from his Quiz Bowl program to soak up facts by the hundreds.
When he completed a preliminary online test, along with some 9,000 other kids, his results propelled him into one of four regional rounds; his was conducted in New Orleans.
"You went there," he said, "(and) they interviewed you; you took a written test of about 50 questions and you played a mock Jeopardy round with two other kids. And then from that, they took all the results and then chose 15 kids.
"I was one of the 15. It feels pretty good."
When Jonathan and his parents leave Saturday morning for the taping in Los Angeles, he'll pack some nervousness for the trip. But this kid is in no way intimidated.
"I've done things like Quiz Bowl before and I go to math tournaments a lot. So I'm not really intimidated by it. It's on TV; that's the only difference. But I'm just going to try to have fun out there."
The girls will have to stay in Austin; Emily is nursing a broken leg. But they, too, are thrilled by all the excitement and they'll be glued to the TV when their brother's program airs on KXAN-TV during the week of July 29.
My family has helped me a lot," said Jonathan. "I go to a great school, I think. The teachers are really good there. I like all the teachers; they've helped me a lot and all my friends, too."
In LA, though, it will all be on the young Shoemaker.
"If I win on national TV, it'll feel good," he said. "It'll give me some joy but I just want to have a good time."
So how will he feel if he doesn't win?
"If I think I did as good as I could have," said the boy, "if I just get enough questions that I look like I know what I'm doing out there, I'll be happy."
However, it turns out, Jonathan will also come home wealthier.
"If you're third of the three kids, you get $1000," he said with a bit of glee in his voice. "If you're second, you get $2000. And if you're first, you either get the amount you win, or if it's below $15,000, you get $15,000."
So what would Jonathan do with the kind of money?
"I'd probably just put it to college fund," he said. "My dream school would be MIT."
No surprise there: Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a bit on the competitive side. Less than 9 percent of the people who apply for admission actually make it in.
For Jonathan Shoemaker, though, that should not be an issue. A little mathematics reveals that only .00166667 percent of the people who tried out for this year's Jeopardy Kids Week shows made the cut and he was one of them.
MIT, take notice.
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