I recently purchased a whole stack of “Do Hard Things” for our youth leaders to read for this year as part of their training. It is a great book, written by two teenagers (brothers of Joshua Harris of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” fame).

The book basically challenges teens to look beyond the low expectations society has for teenagers and to see the potential they have to change the world even at a young age. They address the “Myth of Adolescence” which says that teens are immature adults who cannot be expected to accomplish much. As long as they stay off the streets and don’t get into drugs, most teens are considered successful, or at least “good kids”. However, the Harris brothers bring to light many examples of people throughout history who have changed the world, even in their teens.

I was reminded of the book recently when I read about one 12 year oldwhose work could be instrumental in solving the energy crisis and leading the way into the green revolution. While not all teens can be super genius science scholars, it still illustrates the impact that young people can have.

Yuan decided to focus his project on finding the most efficient way to harness the sun’s energy.

“I felt solar energy had large potential but it was underused,” he explained. “Fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas are only finite and are slated to run out by 2050.

“We need to make solar energy more cost effective and efficient.”

With that thought in mind, Yuan got to work.

“Current solar cells are flat and can only absorb visible light,” he said. “I came up with an innovative solar cell that absorbs both visible and UV light. My project focused on finding the optimum solar cell to further increase the light absorption and efficiency and design a nanotube for light-electricity conversion efficiency.”

Yuan worked on his project for the past two years with the encouragement of his science teacher Susan Duncan; support of his parents Gang Yuan and Zhiming Mei; and counsel of professional mentors Professor Chunfei Li of Portland State University’s Center for Nanofabrication and Electron Microscopy, Fred Li of Applied Materials Inc. and Professor Shaofan Li of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of California – Berkeley.

“He is our youngest fellow in science that we’ve ever had,” Moessner said. “He is really spectacular.

“His project will really make a difference in advancing the technology of solar cells. You would never know he’s 12 looking at the quality of his work.”

Watching his dedication impressed William’s parents.

“This generation’s sense of urgency is much stronger than my generation’s,” his father said. “They are thinking about the future and want to know how environmental issues will impact their generation.”

Written by timliu

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