The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Record Breakers Singapore TV Show

Yesterday, we had an unusual surprise for my father.

We were staying at the Bintan Lagoon Resort - which is a rather pleasant beach side resort on the Indonesian Island of Bintan. All was fine with it - barring the fact that they seem to have acquired an excessive love of money.

We sat my father in front of the TV at lunchtime on the day of our departure, having arranged a late checkout to do so.

Onto the screen came a show of no apparent relevance. It was the Record Breakers - Singapore Edition, TV show - a sort of localized Guiness Book of World Records TV programme. On the screen were two teams from different schools competing against each other, against a themed backdrop of Singaporean or World Records. The skills of the students were matched against known record breakers.

The first record was the "First 360 degree water ski facility in Singapore" - not much of a record, but fun. The children had to use the ski facility, to the best of their ability. The second record was for the most frog jumps in a minute. Again, the children had to test their ability against this, by doing frog jumps for a minute (though they didn't do real ones).

My father sat through this, perhaps a little disinterested. But then something strange happened. Our son, Ainan, appeared on the TV screen. He was there as the record breaker for the youngest O level holder (they incidentally mentioned him to be the youngest science teacher known, too - starting at six).

Ainan had designed a challenge for the children. It was a chemical structural design. It was very elegant - but required a lot of spatial perception from the competitors, for them to divine what it actually was. The task was simple: they had to view the structure for a limited time, then reconstruct it, using polystyrene balls and satay sticks. It seems like a simple enough task - but it was far from being so. Though the show only covered the segment in a few minutes, the actual contestants took perhaps half an hour or more, to finish. The difficulty arose in being able to understand what they were seeing. Ainan's structure was inherently beautiful, but also a bit mystifying, since, if you did not truly understand the inherent form, you could misperceive it as something else - which is what they did. They built what they saw, and not what was actually there.

To help them along, Ainan commented on their work, telling them exactly where they were going wrong. To do so, he had to analzye their structure, and note its disparities from the original, and tell them where the flaws were and what they were. This was not an easy task since many balls and many sticks were involved and the structures they built were not only wrong, but quite complex. Yet, Ainan was able to see through their work and relate it to where they should be.

Ainan's guidance did the trick - and though they had floundered for perhaps half an hour, after his feedback, one team began to home in on the true design. They were the Malay team.

The teams were to ask Ainan to judge their structures when they thought they had succeeded. The Malay team was the first to do so and called him over. After a brief glance at their work, he announced that their design had won. The Malay team were the winners. The other team was from the Australian International School. They tried hard - but the true nature of the structure eluded them, for too long.

It was an odd experience to see Ainan on television. He was softly spoken throughout and looked a little heavier on screen, than he does in reality. (He is really very slim - so it was unsettling to note that his face looked more rounded on tv: how much fatter would a fat person look, then, if this is what tv did to Ainan's face?!)

I think Ainan did well on his tv appearance. He was composed, and not nervous. He spoke clearly, and succinctly - and was patient throughout the filming (he sat quietly to himself between takes, attracting the puzzled question from a production team member of: "Is he always this quiet?").

Most interesting of all, however, was my father's reaction. I think he was rather proud to see his grandson acknowledged in this way.

I am happy that the timing of the broadcast coincided with my father's visit so that he got to see it - and that Western Indonesia carries Singaporean television.

Our thanks to Thum and the entire production team of Record Breakers - Singapore Edition, for thinking to include Ainan as one of their record breakers. He really enjoyed the experience - and I think learnt something new from it. After all, working on camera is a whole new set of skills in itself - and Ainan got a chance to experience that.

It also allowed us, of course, to surprise my father in a very unusual way.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:51 AM 


Blogger virginiagunawan said...

Hi Valentine! It's really late, but congratulations! I bet your father is very proud of you and your family :)

By the way, do you know where I can watch the show?

I typed Ainan on Youtube and I could only find 2 videos of him. The World's Cleverest Child and Me and a video about prodigies.

Thank you.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Virginia,

I don't believe that the show has ever been posted you probably won't be able to get it.


9:45 PM  

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