"My case isn't that special," Moshe Cavalin said

By Tiare Dunlap
Updated November 29, 2015 02:50 PM
Products in this story are independently selected and featured editorially. If you make a purchase using these links we may earn commission.

At 17 years old, Moshe Cavalin has accomplished more than many people do in a lifetime.

The San Gabriel, California, native has earned two college degrees, published two books and secured a high-profile gig at NASA.

Despite his jaw-dropping list of accomplishments, he insists he’s just an ordinary kid.

“My case isn’t that special,” he told the Associated Press. “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.”

Like other teens, Cavalin still finds time for extracurricular activities – he competes in martial arts tournaments, plays the piano and holds a pilot’s license.

He credits his varied interests to his cultural heritage. His parents – his mother from Taiwan and father from Brazil – insist their son was always a quick study. He said his first word at 4 months old – the Chinese word for airplane.

He began reading and solving math problems at 3 years old, the Daily Bruin reports. And at age 8, Cavalin became the youngest college student in the United States, enrolling in a Los Angeles community college. He started work on an autobiography one year later.

After securing a publisher in East Asia, Cavalin’s book became a best seller in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. He said his aim in writing is to inspire other young people to focus on their education.

“I wrote this book to show readers that I am not a genius,” he said. “They too can accomplish the same things as I have in my life so far.”

After earning his associate’s degree at age 11, Cavalin transferred to UCLA and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in math at 15. He published a second book about his experience being bullied that same year.

Now, at 17, he’s pursuing a master’s degree in cyber security online while working part-time for NASA, running simulations to keep drones and airplanes safe during flight, ABC-7 reports.

His supervisor, NASA engineer Ricardo Artega, told the news station he knew immediately upon seeing his application that Cavalin would be perfect for the project.

“His expertise was in software and he also had mathematical algorithms, and he also had a pilot’s license,” Artega said.

Cavalin says he plans to get a PhD in computer science or an MBA, eventually hoping to start his own cybersecutiy business. For now, he’s still finding time to be a teen.

“I’m just like any other kid in a lot of respects,” he reflected. “I’m excited for the new Star Wars movie.”