Sebastian Del Barco, Milo the Lynx

Doctorate before driver’s license?

Young students with promise come to CU Denver

December 13, 2017

Sebastian Del Barco, 17, and Kaden Ostendorf, 14, know it’s never too early to commit to your education. That’s why the two high-achieving students are already taking classes at CU Denver.

Both Del Barco and Ostendorf have a talent and a passion for mathematics. Both have big ideas for how to use their unique abilities. And both began taking classes at CU Denver in fall 2016.

The evening courses and flexible schedule options allow them to enroll concurrently at their respective secondary schools and at CU Denver.

“I feel like my experience at CU Denver has been a really good one,” Ostendorf said. “It’s made me realize that I belong in college.”

Teen business pro

Sebastian Del Barco
Concurrently enrolled student Sebastian Del Barco, 17, presented his startup organization, Learning Spark, at MIT.

Sebastian Del Barco is a high school student, a college student and an engineering research assistant. He has published works in two different academic journals. He co-founded an educational start-up company that was selected to present its work at MIT. He is 17.

“I want to make a positive impact on the world,” said Del Barco, who takes classes in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and the Business School.

He’s already making an impact through his organization Learning Spark, which provides elementary school students with educational kits containing interactive STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons. He and his teenage colleagues secured grant funding after their presentation at the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship and are now looking to expand their offerings to schools across Colorado.

At CU Denver, the young social entrepreneur has engaged in research on a variety of topics – from trends among mutual funds and stocks to the chemical properties of the ionosphere to neuroimaging used to detect brain tumors and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

All of these topic areas have one thing in common that fascinates Del Barco: data.

“I’m a big statistics guy,” he said. “If you collect enough data, you can make assumptions about a lot of different fields.”

Del Barco, who now has junior standing at CU Denver, was nervous about fitting in in a college setting, but he’s been pleasantly surprised.

“Everyone here is really friendly,” he said. “The take-away from all that I’ve done at CU Denver is to pursue my education further and get skills to better serve other people.”

Video game whiz kid

Kaden Ostendorf
Kaden Ostendorf, 14, is currently taking a 300-level abstract math class in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Kaden Ostendorf started reading at age 2. He started writing computer code at 8. He enrolled in college at 13.

Currently, Ostendorf is a student at the Early College of Arvada (ECA), where students can take middle school, high school and college-level courses. Last year, he got his first taste of CU Denver at ECA through the CU Succeed program.

Now, the 14-year-old is taking a 300-level abstract math class in CLAS. When he graduates from high school next year, he’ll already have 30 college credits. His father, Devon Ostendorf, feels confident in the decision to enroll him at CU Denver.

“Kaden’s experience at CU Denver has been very positive,” he said. “I think the diversity of the school has helped Kaden feel less like an outsider and more like a typical student. Kaden loves the course material and the fact that the other students are so engaged in learning.”

Kaden Ostendorf dreams of being a professional video game programmer and already creates games from raw code. Of the several programming languages he knows, his favorite is C++. He created a game called Blocky World, which is “a non-linear, top-down, 2-D perspective game.” And he’s currently designing a sequel to the Nintendo 64 game, Yoshi’s Story.

So far, he’s enjoyed taking classes at CU Denver. He likes his professor’s sense of humor, and he loves that his classmates are just as interested in the material as he is.

“Not a lot of people have skipped four grades,” he said, “but I think people should push to be challenged. No one should have to be bored at school, and everyone deserves to learn.”