Top 5 Tech Whizzes under 20

5 Jun 2015

I have started learning a few bits of MySQL over the last month or so—just simple query stuff—but I was still pretty proud of myself for even understanding the barest of essentials. It’s great as well because, whenever I have a question, I can just ask one of our own gurus and they’ll clear it up for me. Well, they’ll talk for a while about something, I’ll look blank, and then they’ll rephrase it so my poor non-developer brain can understand it.

The other day, I did a quick Google to see if I could find out an answer myself and came across something that made me feel more than a little bit irrelevant—there is a five-year-old who is a certified computer specialist. I’m 27-years older than him and I know that I wouldn’t understand more than a few words on that exam.

So I thought I would put together a short list of other technological geniuses who make me feel old and slow…but really I am just in genuine awe of their abilities.

  • Microsoft Certified Computer Specialist – At age five, Ayan Qureshi became the youngest person to pass the Microsoft Certified Professional exam. He’s already got big plans for a new Silicon-Valley-esque movement here in the UK. I wonder if he’d be interested in applying for our support tech job vacancy?
  • Robot Inventor – At only 12 years old, Rohan Agrawal is a robot building genius. He started coding at four, playing with an old circuit board he was given by his engineer parents. At his internship at OLogic, he created a robot that could autonomously deliver crisps around an office. I wonder if you could swap those for biscuits?
  • Human Calculator – Priyanshi Somani was the youngest participant of the Mental Calculation World Cup when she was just 11 years old—not just winning her class, but picking up the overall title. Now straight mathematics like this might not seem like it belongs in an article about technology, but these kind of maths skills would obviously be a huge boon to anyone working in technology. Plus, Somani stands out as one of the few female child prodigies in the “hard” science fields.
  • University Lecturer – Mahmoud Wael was teaching Master’s level university courses on the programming language C++ when he was just 14. He also speaks three languages (probably more by now) and tries his best to lead as normal a life as possible, something I think we can all relate to in our busy lives.
  • Programming Prodigy – At only 14 years old, Santiago Gonzalez had already written 15 apps and was just about to finish his undergraduate degree in computer science and electronic engineering. By now he should be just starting his Master’s degree at age 17. He’s also fluent in over a dozen programming languages—I don’t imagine I would ever claim to be “fluent” in even one!

Looking into these amazing individuals did get me thinking, though, what makes a person develop from being just your average (or slightly above average) kid into a certifiable genius?

Although there is a likely genetic predisposition to this kind of genius, there is also evidence that already gifted children who have parents who both support their genius and also stimulate them to reach even further, were more likely to be happy and engaged with their studies than those whose parents “only” supported them.

But what about the fact that we’ve only got the one girl on our list? Well, Professor Camilla Benbow of Iowa State University has made a study of child prodigies and found that the brains of “gifted” boys work differently than other boys and even those of “gifted” girls. The boys seem to be able to essentially switch off the non-analytical parts of their brain to focus solely on the question at hand.

Gifted girls, on the other hand, do not seem to have this same ability, which may be why female child prodigies in maths and science are even rarer than males. Benbow attributes this to the effect that certain hormones restrict the ability to “lateralise” thinking.

She goes on to discuss the effects that culture has on this same issue, citing how the in ratios of boy-to-girl genius can differ hugely by country.

Saying that, however, only underlines the fact that the environment in which someone is raised can go a long way towards helping them reach that genetic potential for greatness.

It does make you wonder, though, what life could have been like if you had that one gene switched over or if your parents attempted teaching you maths before you could speak. Maybe we could all be geniuses under the right circumstances.