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Incoming student and Chancellor’s Science Scholar Christian Cambizaca is working to make education accessible to kids around the world.

Christian Cambizaca
Christian Cambizaca

Incoming first-year student Christian Cambizaca has the rare quality of being trilingual — or hexalingual if you count the three computer coding languages he’s taught himself.

As one of the 4,295 newest Tar Heels coming to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall, Cambizaca is looking to hone his skills in the Computer Science Department and use them to create better education systems.

“I’m very interested in trying to see how computer software correlates to how we can teach children to learn how to read,” he said. “A lot of people have computers, but not software that can help children to read. It doesn’t have to be just in the United States, but it could be universal.”

Ultimately, Cambizaca wants to use computer programs to help children learn to read in multiple languages with what he envisions as a “Rosetta Stone for kids,” a literacy and language software program accessible from anywhere in the world, with or without high-speed internet.

“Going back to my roots, neither my mother nor my father had access to education,” he said.

A first-generation college student, Cambizaca credits his parents for encouraging him to pursue the education they couldn’t have growing up in rural Ecuador.

“They really showed me the value of education,” he said. “So for me, it’s about opening doors for other children and getting them excited about learning.”

Cambizaca also believes that learning should be fun, just as it was for him. Growing up, he would huddle in front of the television in his parents’ Brooklyn, New York, home and watch Cyberchase, a PBS children’s show about math.

“I will never forget watching that show,” he said. “It really grabbed my attention. I just happened to be watching the right stuff, so computers and math, they came to me as passions early on.”

Then it was Minecraft. In his teen years, Cambizaca used the popular video game to explore new coding languages and build his own worlds. The game helped him understand how computers think, inspiring him to create software programs of his own.

Now a Chancellor’s Science Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, Cambizaca is part of a cohort of students bringing diverse talents to the fields of science and technology. Through the program, Cambizaca hopes to pursue research and internships that will make his language learning software idea a reality.

“It’s so great that Carolina has all these amazing facilities and resources, but also that I have CSS to open so many research opportunities and help me find my way,” he said. “Anything is possible [in STEM].”

By Emilie Poplett, University Communications

Read about other new Tar Heels and learn some facts about the incoming 2018 class.


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