Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, repairing the Hubble Telescope. Image: NASA
Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, repairing the Hubble Telescope. Image: NASA

Connall Cairns of Essex, England, has been interested in rocket science since he was seven years old. At age 13, he got the chance to take an MIT course in it—and passed.

Course 1600x (Introduction to Aerospace Engineering: Astronautics and Human Spaceflight, a MOOC offered online via the edX platform, was taught this past March and April by MIT professor Jeffrey Hoffman, a former NASA astronaut who has made five spaceflights and was the first astronaut to log 1000 hours on the Space Shuttle.

The free eight-week course was suggested to Connall by a teacher at his school, and he worked independently at home on evenings and weekends to complete the coursework. To earn his 81% score, Cairns immersed himself in physics and math concepts such as Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and Newton’s law of universal gravitation.

“I’m absolutely fascinated with science and I’m open to anything,” the 13-year-old told the Essex Chronicle. “One day I’d like to go to MIT in Massachusetts for real and work for a degree there.”

Read more from the Essex Chronicle and the UK’s Sunday Times.

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  1. A kid like that could become one of the greatest scientists. Its not about the knowledge you already have, and that is the only difference between a kid and an adult. If he wants to learn things because he is fascinated with them, he will learn as quick as an adult or even quicker. You should really use this kind of talent because if he loses the motivation to something else, a great future is lost.

  2. Matthew McGuire

    I know Connall (I am his best friend) and when he was 11, he was OBSESSED with Nuclear Fusion. I personally think that he could outsmart Stephen Hawkings when he is an adult. He is THAT smart.

  3. Cori Jackson

    MIT, thank you for sharing your world class educational resources with those of us around the world and illuminating our minds with your brilliance. “Mens et Manus.”


  4. Please submit my website link to your website.

  5. Desire Mogomotsi

    That is very Fascinating and Motivational ….Thank you for sharing such information

  6. Thanks for spreading this knowledge to us. I also write some words about Packing materials supplier China must visit my page

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