BLOOMINGTON — After getting home from Evans Junior High School, 10-year-old Vivek Abraham completes his 6th grade math homework, then studies for his online astrophysics class at Northwestern University in Evanston.
"Sometimes I get bored with my sixth-grade homework,” said Vivek, fiddling with a chessboard in his Bloomington home.
His 9-month-old sister, Aradhya, eyed the chess pieces and tried to snatch a rook to chew on. On top of caring for the baby, parents Anupama Chandrappa and Antony Abraham have a genius son to support.
Vivek is considered a child genius with an IQ score of more than 160; the average is between 85 and 114.
He aced the ACT Explore exam twice, won a first ranking in Northwestern's Midwest Academic Talent Search and, at 7 p.m. Thursday, will appear on Lifetime’s second season of "Child Genius."
“We don’t know where all this knowledge came from,” said his mom.
Vivek's parents said they didn't use any unique techniques to teach their son when he was younger.
"When he was less than 6 months old, we had an alphabet fridge magnet set and I would say a letter and he would hand it to me," said Chandrappa. "We just knew he was different."
“Around the age of 5 or 6, I discovered a deep love for astronomy,” said Vivek, whose bookshelf is stacked with publications by Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. “I also love physics. So when I found out there was a subject called astrophysics, I knew it would be my favorite. I want to be an astrophysicist.”
Vivek loves working with robotics and builds LEGO Mindstorm robots. He enjoys watching YouTube and reading. During winter break, he spent time studying for an upcoming geography bee.
Because Vivek is a member of Mensa — the high IQ society — he was contacted by the producers of "Child Genius" and asked to apply to join 11 other gifted children from around the United States.
After interviews, tests and elimination rounds, Vivek was one of the 12 children selected. His family headed to Los Angeles to compete and record the show.
“When I found out, I said, ‘Hooray!’ I was surprised and wasn’t expecting to make it into a show this big,” he said with a grin.
The episodes have been recorded; Vivek and his family signed a contract to keep the outcome under wraps.
“I was nervous. Every other test and competition I’ve been in has been written. This was all on stage, being recorded,” he said.
Vivek was the second youngest of the contestants, who competed against each other in game show-style quizzes. With each round, the contestant with the lowest score was eliminated. The grand champion wins a $100,000 college scholarship.
“I didn’t really have any strategy in the competition, but I did some exercises to relax,” said Vivek. “It was intense, because I knew I could either win $100,000 or leave with nothing.”
His father said it was challenging to give full attention to Vivek's studies during the competition because Aradhya was just 2 months old at the time.
"Sometimes it's hard to understand the things he studies. It can be a struggle to be the parent of a gifted kid," said Abraham. “We always wondered if we were doing the right thing for him. So we were able to form this support group with these other parents on the show because we’re all going through the same challenges.”
After putting away his chess set, Vivek walked to the stair case. With bare feet, he balanced on the lower lip of the banister and swiveled around the newel post; proving that even with his IQ, there's still time to play.
“When the kids got off the stage during the competitions, they ran around and played games together,” said Abraham. “Vivek is still a child.”