Achievers

Muhammad Raza: The Child Prodigy


Muhammad Raza: The Child Prodigy
MIT Technology Review

Mohammad Raza, an 11-year old, who is making waves due to his coding abilities. While kids his age are busying themselves with games and adventures which accompany a young age, Raza builds his computing legacy. He is a gifted kid, who has been working on developing softwares designed to catch criminals and has also been working to  build language predictors, the likes of which have not been seen in the market yet. Despite being gifted, he is continuing his studies but instead of going to school, he attends Undergrad and Masters Courses at the Information Technology University at Lahore. At the university too, he out performs his classmates.

Raza’s interest in computing and programming began when a friend of his father introduced him to the GW Basic language. Once acquainted with it, Raza began to watch tutorials which aided him to understand and learn more about the language. Seeing that he was taken with programming, the family friend also introduced him to the coding language, C.

At age of 9, Raza’s parents decided to shift from Karachi to Lahore in order to set up a printing business, the endeavor was not successful and as a result of financial instability, the child’s education suffered. While his father was unable to get him admitted in a school, he did not give up on his son’s education. He heard of a robotics exhibition at ITU and through a friend set up time with Talha Rehmani, a faculty member at ITU, to bring to light Raza’s intellect in programming.

Talha Rehmani, however, was not convinced but was persuaded by Raza’s father to at least give Raza a try. Mr. Rehmani instructed two of his research assistants to conduct a test to determine the brilliance of the child. According to the professor, when both his research assistants did not come back after an hour, he decided to go look for them and found Raza explain coding as his assistants looked on. It was then that he decided Raza was not an ordinary boy and took him under his wing as research assistance. He points out that when Raza joined, he was good at coding but often had problems with the mathematics of coding which once he explained to the child, he understood.

To ensure that Raza’s learning remained an on-going thing, he was asked to attend Undergrad and Masters level classes and the teachers were advised to treat him like any other student in the class. Raza proved to be as good at his studies as he was at programming and scored well beyond the average score in his classes.

Dr. Agha Ali Raza, who has a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University, is one of Raza’s teachers at ITU and while he is sure of the child’s brilliance, he is also concerned that Raza has not received proper schooling and therefore does not get along with kids his age. He further explained that Raza has intellect beyond his years and is, sometimes, unable to keep his queries aligned to the syllabus of the course, which results in a stressful class environment.

Raza has taken five courses this semester, namely, Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, Electronic Devices and Structures, Advanced Algorithms and Computational Linguistics. He has also been actively participating in the annual Robotics exhibition and introduced facial recognition software which he had developed, called Vision Based System VBS).  In addition to this, he has also come up with an Urdu word predictor which displays a list of words, very similar to the English word predictors in the country; the predictive text consists of almost 50,000 words.

Mr. Rehmani explained that developing an Urdu word predictor was no minor task as gender and tenses are bound to create confusing. He said this is one of the major reasons why we do not have a lot of Urdu predictive text programs. To test Raza’s software, Mirza Ghalib’s poetry was used and it performed brilliantly. The software is not only a word predictor but also a transliterator; it has the ability to convert roman Urdu to proper Urdu lettering. While this all sounds quite overwhelming, Raza breezes through the explanations at a demonstration, indicative of the fact that he finds all this work quite easy. He also mentioned that the thing which interests him the most is Mathematics as he finds problem solving quite enjoyable. .

Despite all of Raza’a brilliance, Mr. Rehmani worries about him. When admitted in a proper school, so that he could get along with his peers. Raza was bullied by both his class fellows and teachers due to which he could not adjust in normal schooling at all. Mr. Rehmani is of the view that his brilliance at computers will not be taken seriously until and unless he has acquired proper education and it has been decided among Dr. Agha and Mr. Rehmani that Raza will appear either for matriculation or O/A Level exams in the future. Dr. Umar Saif, the Vice Chancellor of ITU has assured everyone that the university will facilitate Raza in every way to ensure his success.

In spite of being young and driven, Raza is quite focused. At such a young age, he has a clear indication that he wants to make his country proud and wants to help it progress in the world of computing globally. Mr. Rehmani is quite hopeful that Raza will succeed in his endeavors and really appreciates the sentiment of the child to put things right, not only in his country but the world. His work on a software, build to identify and catch criminals is an indicator of his mindset.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. charissa.hershberger@googlemail.com'

    Bernadine

    April 26, 2017 at 2:30 am

    Thank you for the effort, keep up the great work Great work.

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