First, we had high-school and middle-school students making significant breakthroughs in cancer and asthma research. And if you don’t feel unaccomplished enough, we now have the story of 13-year-old Aidan Dwyer.
While hiking in the Catskill Mountains, Aidan noticed that the tree branches were growing in a spiral pattern. And while other 13-year-olds would have tried climbing the tree or running past it without a second thought, Aidan was curious about it. He went home and decided to study the Fibonacci sequence (I’m sure you would have done the same thing!)
After doing further studies, he concluded that the leaves followed the Fibonacci pattern and furthermore, if you arranged solar panels in the same arrangement, it would be the more efficient way to receive solar power. His experiment and findings won him the “Young Naturalist” Award with the American Museum of Natural History.
Aidan also explains his findings in AMNH’s website, “The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.”
A technology blog, The Capacity Factor claims to debunk Aidan’s findings (the post has been taken off). The blogger claimed that the experiement was flawed and the findings were inconclusive. “I’m not sure I understand the confusion by which people think there could be some advantage, to orienting panels at sub-optimal angles. That somehow combining sub-optimal panels, together, makes them generate more energy in the net,” the blogger wrote.
Whether or not Aidan is correct, his scientific curiosity and process is impressive in itself. And let us not forget, at 13-years-old, most of us don’t attempt projects beyond the reaches of Mrs. Armstrong’s class; our inspiration was Dexter, not Fibonacci.
In fact, Aidan’s experience inspires us to always be curious and to look for answers in the most unlikely places. So, cheers to Aidan and the scientist in all of us!