Darren Van Roodt: Youthful-looking UWC Comp Sci graduate causes social media frenzy
When Darren van Roodt graduated with a BSc Honours in Computer Science - cum laude - during the University of the Western Cape’s Autumn Graduation Ceremony last week, it wasn’t just his excellent results and technical achievements that drew attention, but also his youthful appearance - the 22-year-old doesn’t look a day over 13.
But Darren tells a serious story behind the origins of his youthful looks.
“I was about six years old when I began complaining about headaches - and that’s when the doctors found that I had a tumour on my brain,” he says. “It was removed, but it affected my growth.”
It didn’t affect his mind, though, or his determination to succeed. And the Garden Village, Maitland resident has come a long way since his days at Koeberg Primary, and later Rhodes High School in Mowbray, where he completed matric in 2012.
Darren was a great student at UWC - he has constantly been one of the top achievers in UWC’s Computer Science Department, and his Honours research topic was cutting-edge: using computer vision and a Microsoft Kinect to create a programme that controls a drone using hand gestures.
Today he is employed as a quantitative risk analyst at Rand Merchant Bank, having been scouted for his considerable skills.
“Currently I am working in the Quantitative Risk Analytics team as a Systems Analyst,” he explains, “which means I take care of the technological systems that determines credit rating for any Corporate that does banking with Rand Merchant Bank.”
“I’m really grateful to my family and friends who were there for me through the tough and fun times while at university,” he says.
His parents, Stanley and Jill, couldn’t be more proud of their middle child (Darren has two other siblings, eldest Caren-Lee and youngest Terri-Lee). And his friends are used to his enthusiasm for programming languages like Java or Python, and for web development and HTML5.
“I was always very intrigued by computers and how they work, and I loved mathematics,” Darren remarks. “But coding interested me most, because you have the ability to tell the computer what it must do for you in a set of instructions, and that to me is fascinating.”
Computers And People Changing The World
At varsity, Darren is known as a problem solver and innovative thinker who works well with others, and he’s put those skills to very good use.
In 2013 Darren and four of his friends won UWC’s CodeJam, a competition with a focus on developing a mobile application that could solve issues pertaining to education and more. Darren’s team developed a mobile Android application which helps students with mathematics problems connect with tutors.
“This was my proudest moment at UWC,” Darren says. “The application gave students the ability to get help from tutors directly in helping them to solve mathematics problems. We also gave them access to mathematics material like past papers and textbooks. I was proud because it added to what the University stands for: to help develop academic solutions to our country’s problems.”
Back in 2015 he and his friends competed in the Standard Bank IT Challenge and made it to the finals. That same year, he was part of the UWC team that competed in the finals of the CSIR Student Cluster Competition, building a high-performance computing cluster that could swiftly and accurately run through a set of real-world scientific applications.
But there’s more to Darren than just computing successes.
“I make time for my hobbies. I love watching series and playing online games; I go hiking with friends, watch and play soccer. I also tutor maths at a school in my community. And of course, I’m very interested in using computer programming and modern technology for social change - I want to experience the real world and tackle the problems faced in the real world.”
He wants to create his own company one day - one which will develop mobile applications to solve educational issues.
His advice to current students: “Studying can be stressful at times, but at the end of the day you will be better off both financially and on an educational level. Education is the key to a successful life - however and wherever you do it, it will help you become the person you want to be.”
Know of anyone graduating in April who’s done something really interesting? Overcome great odds, achieved amazing marks, performed world-changing research? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 959 9566 and share your story with the world!