The Woman Who Turned Her High School Science Project Into A Global Solar Nonprofit

Eden Full Goh discovered the potential of solar power when she was just 10 years old. She had come across a book in the library that taught her how to build a small solar-powered car. Once she took the book home and built it, she was hooked. She wanted to see what else she could do with this incredible source of energy.

In Calgary, where she grew up, Full Goh said she was “spoon fed this idea that when you graduate you work in oil and gas,” which was the main industry in the area. That was what engineers did, the best opportunity they were presented. But Full Goh yearned to do something different.

“I really resisted that,” she said. “I didn’t want to be purposefully contrarian, but it didn’t sit well with my moral values, and I wanted to check out if there were meaningful things [to do].”

So Full Goh kept chipping away at experiments with solar power, trying to find solutions to the problems she saw in solar power production and distribution. She built solar cars and did research projects on how and where solar could work. Her high school years were filled with science fair projects based around an inclination she had: that tracking the sun was important to make expensive solar panels the most efficient. In 2006, she invented what she called the SunSaluter, which is a solar panel rotator that uses the power of gravity by weighing down water clocks, to follow the sun from east to west throughout the day, boosting panel efficiency by 30 percent. It also produces four liters of clean drinking water while it rotates.

In high school, Full Goh received some grants and internships to work with professors on her science project. She went to Princeton, where she attended until she was 19, when she dropped out to focus completely on SunSaluter through the Thiel Fellowship, a program founded by Peter Thiel that gives founders $100,000 to take two years off from college and focus on their companies. Full Goh was one of the first fellows ever accepted.