Middle School Student Makes Scientific Breakthrough

Thirteen-year-old William Yuan…

….began working with solar cells two years ago, after science teacher Susan Duncan encouraged him to tackle an engineering project. He spent hours searching the Internet, brainstorming with Duncan, and talking with professionals before he found a topic that piqued his interest: the global energy crisis. Building on research from Georgia Tech and Notre Dame universities, Yuan found a way to improve the conversion efficiency and yields of solar cells.

Most solar cells absorb visible light to produce electricity, but his design harnesses both visible and ultraviolet light. That’s particularly helpful in cloudy areas, such as where he lives in the Pacific Northwest, because the solar cell can continue to generate electricity even when clouds obscure the Sun. To achieve this result, Yuan applied various coatings, integrated nanotubes, and added specialized nanostructures to a typical solar cell. Experts have given his method a thumbs-up. (Source: Edutopia)

A Few Thoughts

  • Please consider reading the full story.
  • Congratulations William!!! Not only am I impressed by your discovery, but your diligence and ability to collaborate with others in resourceful ways is inspiring.
  • I send my respect and appreciation to Susan Duncan, William’s science teacher from 2 years ago, who seems to have played an instrumental and ongoing role in William’s personal work. I’d like to find her blog, website, etc. if it’s out there.


  • What lessons can educators and parents learn from this?
  • What can other young people take away from William’s journey and scientific breakthrough?

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Clif Mims is a Christian, husband, father, teacher, cancer warrior, and fan of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Memphis Grizzlies.

One thought on “Middle School Student Makes Scientific Breakthrough”

  1. “Though you may envision a room full of bored, lazy, and surly know-it-alls, the real dynamics are very different,..”

    I guess we can learn from comments like this that the common myths about the highly gifted damage not only the children themselves but society as a whole.

    “I was enrolled in a TAG program, but they just tested me once and said I was in,” Yuan recalls. “They didn’t really do anything.” By creating an outlet for his energy and talent, Summa Options gave Yuan the support he needed to thrive.”

    Yuan himself speaks of the difference between meaningful engagement and the kind of gifted programs which do little for the individual needs of the child.

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