With all the sobering news lately about global warming and war, it’s important to remember all the positive things that are ALSO going on in the world at any given time. Case in point: the story of intrepid Malawi youth William Kamkwamba who, despite having no formal education or training, recently engineered and built a windmill to power his house. It’s certainly the most inspiring story we’ve read this month, and we think you’ll agree…
After having to drop out of school due to lack of funds, William Kamkwamba from Malawi decided to learn as much as he could from books that had been donated to his primary school’s library. One of the books detailed how to build a windmill that generated enough electricity.
With much trial and error, some local materials, and an investment of about 16 dollars, William constructed a windmill that could generate enough energy for a few light bulbs and a radio. While a few bulbs might sound insignificant, the difference changed William’s and his family’s life entirely. Instead of using expensive paraffin candles, which produce smoke and irritate the eyes, William and his family now use the energy generated by the wind to light up their house. The engineering youth also hooked up a car battery to his generator to use as a backup in case of a non-windy day.
The 12-meter tall windmill (it was originally only 5 meters) is made out of scrap timber. The blades, originally made from PVC, now steel, power a bicycle dynamo, the type that power a bicycle headlamp, which in turn provides electricity to the battery. William uses this energy for his house, as well as to help others recharge their batteries. Just recently, he moved from a car battery to a deep discharge battery, which will help improve with the power storage of his house.
William’s story does not end here. After appearing in the local papers, and blogged by Soyapi Mumba, he was contacted by Emeka Okafor, the recent curator of the TED Global Conference in Arusha. Okafor invited William to speak at the conference as one of the 100 other prestigious presenters. It was there that William was first introduced to computers, the internet, Google, and the blog (he now has his own blog, in which he writes about his experience).
What does the future hold for this local green hero/inventor/entrepreneur? He has made recent modifications to the windmill and completed a second installation at his primary school. He also plans to modify his windmill to include the ability to pump water from his well and irrigate his garden.
Truly a remarkable and inspiring story. If you are feeling as moved as we are over William’s accomplishments, you can donate directly to help William’s education and engineering projects here >