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Blindness Isn’t Stopping This 15-Year-old H.S. Senior’s Quest For Knowledge

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(credit: CBS) Frank Vascellaro
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WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) – When the Wayzata Science Bowl team practices, they mean business. They just won the state championship, and they are now getting ready for nationals in Washington, D.C.

They’re all smart kids, that’s obvious, but one of them stands out — team captain Nathan Stocking.

“The other team gets intimidated,” said teammate Jayant Chaudhary, “because he doesn’t even need paper for pretty complex complications.”

Stocking is a high school senior, even though he’s only 15 years old.

“Whether it’s speaking Spanish or Chinese, or if it’s programming computer scripts, or if it’s knowing every detail about a science subject, he excels in all of them,” said teacher Amanda Laden.

But something else is different about Stocking. He can’t see.

“I think he was born smart,” says his mother, Karen Cotch. “He just thrives on knowledge…and we’re just the ones who try to find ways to feed it.”

Stocking lost his sight when he was only a few months old, but he’s been amazing people ever since.

“At around 8, he started taking middle school classes,” she said. “His first A.P. class, he was 11, and he went to the high school for that.”

Now, he’s only at the high school for science bowl. His college-level classes are all online or through special instructors.

“I never really had a formal grade until this year,” he said.

And then there’s his music. Stocking is an accomplished pianist, who knew the difference between Bach and Beethoven as a toddler. And he enjoys improvising, with a classical feel.

He’s always been ahead of the curve, always amazing people, shocking the pediatrician at his 3-year-old physical.

“When he got done with the exam, the doctor said do you have any questions,” according to Stocking’s mother. And Stocking said, “Yes, actually about subatomic particles, I’m interested in that.”

In fact, he’s interested in almost everything. Who else reads Wikipedia for fun? Or hacks his computer to speed up the synthesized voice? He cranks it up to 480 words a minute — which creates a sputtering, whirling noise — all in the name of efficiency.

“While most people don’t understand it,” Stocking said, “I have trained myself to get whatever I need to read done a lot faster.”

That brings us to our own quiz question: Is there anything Stocking isn’t good at?

“Poetry analysis,” he said. “That’s supposedly easy, at least according to every English teacher, and thus it isn’t.”

Stocking’s parents both have master’s degrees, and his three siblings are all very smart, at least compared to the rest of us.

His 18-year-old brother is a senior at a different school, so they don’t have to compete against each other.

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