Today, William Kamkwamba is a student at Dartmouth. But just a few years ago, growing up in the famine-stricken African nation of Malawi, he was just a boy trying to help his family get by. This is the story of his insatiable curiosity and creativity, which led him to tackle the seemingly impossible task of creating a homemade wind turbine to provide electricity for his family’s home.
William Kamkwamba was 14 years old in 2002, when Malawi was hit with its worst famine in decades. Day-to-day survival took priority over education, and although his family could no longer afford to send him to school, he didn’t stop learning. After stumbling upon a library book about wind power, William began constructing a homemade wind turbine from wood scraps, plastic, and old bicycle parts. Much to his family’s surprise, the contraption provided enough energy to power lights and radios in his family’s home – at a time when 98% of Malawians had no household electricity.
The story didn’t end there – before long, Kamkwamba’s project attracted attention from people around the world, including some heavy hitters like Al Gore and Chris Anderson from TED. In addition to continuing his education abroad, he has continued working to help improve living conditions at home. Learn more about his alternative energy and education initiatives at his personal blog – it’s fascinating reading.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind: Creating Currents Of Electricity And Hope, $10.19 at Amazon (paperback). Also available in Kindle eBook format.