Darren van Roodt, 22, graduated cum laude with a BSc Honours degree in computer science from the University of the Western Cape. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - How old is he? That question caused quite a stir on social media when a picture of Darren van Roodt, 22, was posted the day he graduated cum laude with a BSc Honours in computer science degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

His may have been one of 60 cum laude and 16 summa cum laude degrees conferred in the natural sciences that day, but this Garden Village, Maitland resident drew extra attention, thanks to his youthful appearance – he doesn't look a day older than 13.

Many wondered how such a young lad was able to accomplish something this remarkable – obtaining a BSc computer science degree cum laude means obtaining a weighted average of 70% across all modules.

But Van Roodt tells a serious story behind the origins of his youthful looks.

“I was about 6 years old when I began complaining about headaches – and that’s when the doctors found I had a tumour on my brain,” he said. “It was removed but it affected my growth.”

He’s come a long way since his days at Koeberg Primary and later Rhodes High School in Mowbray, where he completed matric in 2012. 

Van Roodt was a fine student at UWC, and for the past three years of his degree he has constantly been one of the top three achievers in UWC’s computer science department.

“Currently I am working with the quantitative risk analytics team as a systems analyst, which means I take care of the technological systems that determine credit rating for any corporate that does banking with Rand Merchant Bank.”

Van Roodt strikes one as somewhat of a withdrawn personality. But he opens up when you speak to him about programming languages like Java or Python, or web development and HTML5 – the things that spark his interest.

His family and friends are used to this enthusiasm – and their support helped him succeed.

“I’m really grateful to my family and friends who were there for me through the tough and fun times while at university,” said Van Roodt.

His parents, Stanley and Jill, couldn’t be more proud of their middle child (Darren has two siblings, Caren-Lee, 25, and Terri-Lee, 20.)

His varsity friends call him a problem-solver and innovative thinker who works well with others, and they speak glowingly about his accomplishments.

In 2015, Van Roodt and his friends competed in the Standard Bank IT Challenge and made it to the finals.

Code Jam is a competition with a focus on developing a mobile application in a team of five that could solve issues pertaining to education and more.

In 2013 Darren and four of his friends won Code Jam by developing a mobile application in Android, which helps students with maths problems to connect with tutors.

“This was my proudest moment at UWC,” Van Roodt said.

Cape Argus