Looking up toward the future: The University's 12-year-old engineering student

Henry Muhlbauer pursues Electrical Engineering degree

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First-year Engineering student Henry Muhlbauer entered the University as a full time student at the age of 12 years old. He plans to major in Electrical Engineering and go on to do research in graduate school.

Porter Dickie | Cavalier Daily

First-year Engineering student Henry Muhlbauer manages challenging coursework, extracurricular involvement and sports events like many of his fellow Wahoos on Grounds. But he stands out from the crowd for one simple fact: he’s 12 years old.

Muhlbauer, who lives outside Charlottesville with his mom, dad and two sisters, commutes to and from school with his parents every day.

“U.Va. was the only option because I can’t live in the dorms,” Muhlbauer said. “It’s close, people are very nice and it’s a really good university.”

To get into the University, Muhlbauer took the SAT, subject tests, AP exams and filled out the Common App, like all other first years — but he skipped one major step: high school.

“I was homeschooled, but I pretty much homeschooled myself,” Muhlbauer said. “My mom bought the books and everything; I would just read through and do the problems.”

Before living in Charlottesville, Muhlbauer’s family lived in England, Ohio and Arizona, traveling for his father’s job in the Air Force. Muhlbauer started homeschooling in England, since his school did not offer an advanced academic program.

During his homeschool career, Muhlbauer earned 16 credits from AP courses and took classes at the University part time. He was a part-time student for two years, starting in the fall of 2012 at the age of 10.

“[Full time] is different from part time — it’s more work,” Muhlbauer said. “Living at home [and going to school full time] is sometimes a problem because some of my classes require a lot of group work. The most difficult thing [this semester] was probably driving back and forth.”

George Cahen, the Engineering School’s associate dean for undergraduate programs, said Muhlbauer’s age does not hinder his academic performance.

“He is, in his classes, more advanced than most of our entering students,” Cahen said.

Though Muhlbauer has only been attending the University full time for one semester, he has already declared a major in Electrical Engineering. He is considering minors in Physics and Applied Mathematics.

“I decided that I liked Electrical Engineering mainly because I enjoy building and testing circuits,” Muhlbauer said. “Additionally, electrical and computer engineering is at the forefront of most new technologies.”

Muhlbauer plans to graduate when he is 14 or 15 and is interested in going to graduate school to pursue research in Electrical Engineering.

“I will probably still be living here when I graduate, so I could still go to U.Va. [for graduate school],” he said.

Cahen, who has taught Mulhbauer in two classes, said his academic track and interests mirror that of any other University student.

“When he is in my class, he’s not off alone,” Cahen said. “He’s in with the other students, getting along very well, and the students are crazy about him. He doesn’t just do the minimum. In one activity, he competed with other students [in the class] and he won.”

Despite his heavy workload with academics, Muhlbauer also has time to pursue extracurricular interests, which include baseball and Hoos Flying — a group which designs and builds radio-controlled airplanes.

“He is very outgoing; he’s not an introvert,” Cahen said. “Intellectually, he understands the situation very, very well. He doesn’t stay to himself; he sits and talks with the students.”

Muhlbauer said he also enjoys cooking and going to football games with his friends.

“Most of my friends are students at U.Va.,” Muhlbauer said. “It’s not that much different. I’m on the same level as most of the kids here — I’m just shorter.”

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