Turning the Light Bulb on Early

March 11, 2014

by: Arianna Alibabaie

I came across the story of Aidan Dwyer while scouring the Focus Forward website, which challenged thirty of the world’s leading documentary filmmakers to seek out and capture stories of everyday citizens-turned-innovators and, in a few cases, child-turned-innovator. The shorts, which have gone on to win numerous festival awards and acclaim, include that of a 13 year-old boy named Aidan who mimicked the earth’s original solar-gatherers, trees, to improve the way we collect and harness solar energy. Watch the video here.

The genius is in the simplicity; trees are able to gather solar energy constantly throughout the day for photosynthesis because their leaves spread out in a myriad of directions and angles, which allow them to attract sunrays at any given moment. Sheet solar panels, on the other hand — the ones we typically see on roofs or along the highway — are at a disadvantage because they can only attract rays during daylight when the sun is “just so,” making their optimal efficiency only around 20%. This is not to say that solar panels are a bad idea, but it does raise the question of how we can improve that number of 20% and make it better.

Looking up at the forest canopy one day, Aidan noticed how each branch, limb, and leaf seemed to spiral outward and upward around the tree trunk to maximize sun exposure. This gave him the idea to mimic nature to expose the solar panels to the maximum amount of sunlight as well, and he was right — his design more than doubled the efficiency captured by standard solar panels. You can check out Aidan’s story in his own words and see his data on the American Museum of Natural History website, who named him a Young Naturalist award winner.

Aidan isn’t the first child inventor whose ideas have struck it big. What really sets Aidan apart from the fathers of earmuffs, Popsicles, and trampolines, is his contribution to society and science rather than entertainment or leisure.

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival wants to help promote children becoming inspired like Aidan was — to turn that light bulb on early. We have been working with our local library to bring a monthly after school program called Untamed Tuesdays to the area’s youth. Award-winning wildlife films showcasing animal behavior and habitats around the world, followed by Q&A time with local experts and filmmakers, will expose and inspire today’s youth, awake curiosity, and drive discovery in tomorrow’s David Attenboroughs, Jane Goodalls, and Tom Mangelsens.

Interested in joining us in our quest to impassion and inform the world’s youth on the wonders of nature and science? Host a screening in your own community with any films from our archive by clicking here.

Join the Wildlife Film Festival every tuesday in the Teton County Library Auditorium for UNTAMED TUESDAYS from 4-5PM.

This upcoming Tuesday, March 18, we will be showing the films Deadly Mission Madagascar and Animal Beatbox. UNTAMED TUESDAYS are free and open to the public! Snack will be provided, and there will be weekly activities.

Photo credits:

1. bernalgren.blogspot.com

2. http://motls.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-bad-science-becomes-common.html

3. Courtesy of Maysles Films. http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/media/film/Outside-at-Sundance-Building-a-Better-Solar-Panel.html

4. www.rtcc.org

5. faithfulprovisions.com

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