Taylor Wilson is a 17-year-old nuclear physicist from the U.S. A few years ago, it was reported that he was the youngest person to ever build a nuclear reactor.
In March 2012, TED posted an introductory talk by Taylor where he describes his attempt to build a star when he was 14 years old. I just watched another video where Taylor gets really deep. He’s particularly smart about physics and has accumulated a great deal of ability in his field. He’s also a good presenter.
Taylor is operating in a really rarified space. He’s a mixture that’s rare among human beings, and especially among young people. He is highly engaged, posses expert knowledge, is highly capable, and as witnessed by the media machine behind his work, he has broad exposure to the “right” audiences.
That is why I’m interested in moving beyond Taylor Wilson, and the other Taylor Wilson’s in the world.
A lot of organizations concerned with youth involvement, youth voice, youth empowerment, and youth engagement are concerned with youth who are Taylor Wilson, in any respect. They want young sports players, junior political leaders, natural teachers, and youth activists to have the tools, opportunities, and avenues they need to get any level of exposure similar to Taylor. Others want to reach young people who are at best in one of those spaces, or some mix between those spaces, not necessarily expert but definitely highly capable.
My work keeps coming back to a different part of the spectrum though. After growing up how I did and spending a career working with the people I have, I want to reach the “every youth”, the “typical teen”, and the “new normal”. Those are really subjective terms, but they’re meant to capture the un-Taylor Wilsons of the world.
I’m most concerned with how to reach those young people and increase their engagement, their knowledge, their ability, and their exposure.
Taylor’s story is definitely inspiring. But instead of replicating him once or twice straight across though, how do we move all people closer to that space?