Can a 13-Year-Old Change the World?

Posted on January 6, 2012

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The Fibonacci Series Around Us

What do Maine, New York and Abu Dhabi have in common? They all have hundreds of people interested in hearing more about the solar energy project of Aidan Dwyer, a 13-year-old student from Long Island. Click here for his PopTech video with his slide show about “Better Solar Designs.”

Even more fascinating is that Aidan’s idea began as an 11-year-old hiking through the Catskill Mountains. As he hiked there during the winter, Aidan noticed that the bare trees had branches reaching up to the sky in proportional spaces that looked identical among different types of trees. After doing some research through Google searches, he discovered that he was observing the Fibonacci series as a pattern in nature. The Fibonacci-based spacing for the branches of each tree looked like a subtle spiral staircase on a tree trunk that climbed up to the sun. It is the same type of Fibonacci beauty that can be found in the arrangements of flower petals, the spiral of a pineapple, the florets of cauliflower and many other wonders of Mother Nature.

Aidan Dwyer's Solar Branch Model (source: Claudio Papapietro of the Wall Street Journal)

Aidan’s hypothesis was that solar light could be collected more efficiently than conventional arrays if solar panels were arranged in the same type of Fibonacci pattern found through the branches on a tree. While the validity of his idea remains a hotly debated topic among scientists, geeks and inquiring minds, the important part of his process is that his experiment will lead to the advancement of science and a more efficient generation of solar power.

Aidan may also need to start his own speaker series for he has been invited to speak to:

–          300 New York University engineering students in the Spring and

–          The World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this month.

Although he hasn’t accepted venture capitalists’ requests to connect with him, he has filed a provisional patent application for his research. Aidan’s original experiment and his follow-up project to improve his methodology will continue to garner publicity. His indomitable will may also lead to the next breakthrough for solar power because he wants to change the world.

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© 2011 by Ed Valdez. All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Eco Leader