Ten years old and changing the world


By Aline Reynolds

Last week, ten-year-old Battery Park City resident Tyler Rose and his family had pizza for dinner. When they finished up around 8 p.m., Tyler had some free time to kill.

Rather than watch T.V. or play a video game, Tyler grabbed some colored markers and sketched a diagram of a solar-paneled street light on the back of the pizza box.

Tyler began brainstorming about the interaction between natural and artificial energy sources two years ago, after powering an alternative energy car with a flashlight.

“I saw it run on artificial light and I thought, ‘how could light power itself through artificial light?’” he said.

A fifth grader at the Independence School (P.S. 234), Tyler started drawing illustrations of alternative-energy street lights in art class last spring. A few weeks later, he contacted Jason Miller, a family friend and hardware engineer, for advice. Miller, having never before heard of the concept, was intrigued by the prospect that light energy could be recycled.

“It seems to me this is a really good idea, that you could have a street light that would be powered not only by the sun, but actually bring some of the power it uses to light the street and re-circulate it back into the light,” said Miller.

The system, he explained, would include solar panels and would eliminate the need for external sources of electricity.

The two then began corresponding via e-mail once every few weeks to discuss the logistics of the project.

“We had a 20-minute conference call in September, the day before the first day of school,” Tyler recalled.

His friend and “colleague”, fifth grader Louis Guillemain, sat in on the phone conversation. The team settled on using light-emitting diode lights rather than fluorescent or sodium vapor lights for the future model of their design.

“He was kind of using me as a sanity check as he was proceeding,” said Miller.

Tyler’s precociousness, he added, astonishes him.  

While their classmates play outdoors during recess, Tyler and Louis toil away at the project on a nearby bench, drawing diagram after diagram. The youths are about to begin crafting a model of the design using copper pipes and wood.

“I sort of thought it would be, oh, just a passing thought,” said Miller. “What blew me away is, he never gave up.”

Tyler said he is determined to see the project to completion – both to aid the environment and prove wrong his friends who say it can’t work. His goal is to convert a street light and to “actually see it working on the street.”

Tyler spouted words like “transistors” and “integrated circuits” as he navigated his mother’s iPad during recess last Thursday, showing off some digital designs of his invention.

And until they copyright their design, the duo is cautious about merely talking about the project with others.

“Anyone we tell, we’re worried they may copy it… we just want to be careful with the idea,” said Tyler.   

He said his sole source of inspiration for the project is his physical surroundings. “I think about our environmental issues… and I was thinking about how much electricity [N.Y.C. street lights] use being on for 12 hours at night. I was thinking about a way for there to be no wires in the ground going to an external source.”

He sent a description of his proposal to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in July. The mayor wrote back, thanking him for his letter and his desire to help the environment. The letter read, “I am always happy to hear from young New Yorkers, especially when you write about the issues that are important to you, your family and your community.” Tyler plans on approaching the mayor again once he and Louis complete the model.

Tyler has been unusually inquisitive since his toddler years. He showed interest in technology and electronics starting at age four, teaching himself the basics through reading and practice. By age eight, he was fixing computers.

He recalls the first time he took apart a computer, spending seven hours fixing his father’s broken laptop after soccer practice. By the end of the day, it was working.  

“He’s the kid that while everybody else is running around, jumping on each other, he’s sitting in the corner doing his homework,” said Tyler’s mother, Yvette Rose. Tyler designed her health and fitness company’s website using the software program Adobe Dreamweaver.

In his spare time, Tyler is also learning how to fly planes, accumulating hours towards earning a junior pilot license when he turns 14. And he plays lead guitar, performing with his rock band at bars like the Bell House in Brooklyn.

When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Tyler replied, “That’s hard.” He paused. “Probably a business owner or a hardware engineer.”