This teenaged whiz kid might be too young to vote or drink, but he holds two college degrees and works on drone and aircraft surveillance technology for NASA.
Moshe Kai Cavalin, 17, graduated from community college at the age of 11 and went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles, four years later. Born to a Taiwanese mother and a Brazilian father, the teenager from San Gabriel, California, was recruited by NASA after they previously rejected him because of his age, according to Mashable.
Cavalin was a brainchild who surpassed the levels of his home schooling at the age of seven when he mastered trigonometry. His mother enrolled him in community college soon after. His mathematics professor of two years at East Los Angeles College remarked to Mashable:
“I think most people just think he’s a genius, they believe it just comes naturally. He actually worked harder than, I think, any other student I’ve ever had.”
When Cavalin first began college his ambition was to become an astrophysicist. After a few physics classes, his interest diminished as he discovered a newfound fascination in cryptography. Cavalin decided to pursue his interest in computer science as a result.
The teenager’s mentor and supervisor at NASA, Ricardo Arteaga, explained that Cavalin was the perfect match for a project involving math, computers and aircraft technology:
“I needed an intern who knew software and knew mathematical algorithms. And I also needed a pilot who could fly it on a Cessna.”
The whiz kid began online classes via Boston area’s Brandeis University this year to earn his master’s in cybersecurity. However, he is taking a step back for a few terms as he focuses on his project with NASA. After he finishes his master’s in cybersecurity, Cavalin hopes to attain a business degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His ultimate goal is to start his own cybersecurity company.
While at NASA, Cavalin runs simulations of collisions involving airplanes and drones. He is tasked with finding solutions to route them to safety. The teenager who has accomplished much for someone his age is also humble about his achievements as he said:
“My case isn’t that special. It’s just a combination of parenting and motivation and inspiration. I tend to not compare myself that often to other people. I just try to do the best I can.”
Though many think of Cavalin as a “genius,” he has a particular dislike for the word:
“One word I don’t take too kindly is genius. Genius is just kind of taking it too far.”
While he plans to earn his airplane pilot’s license by the end of the year, Cavalin is eagerly looking forward to his 18th birthday when he will be able to attain a full driver’s California license. He also partly jokes that he will wait to have a girlfriend once he finishes his doctorate degree.