Monday, October 5, 2009

The Winds of Change

William Kamkwamba (born 1987) is a Malawian innovator who gained fame in his country when, in 2001, he self-built a windmill to power one reading light bulb in his family's house in Masitala, a tiny rural farming village off the grid in Malawi - at the age of 14.

William Kamkwamba Windmill

Naturally, he had to build more; two more, in fact. All three powered at least four light bulbs, a couple of radios, reports of a TV and even charge some of the villagers' cell phones.

Per Wikipedia:
When the Daily Times newspaper in Blantyre wrote a story on Kamkwamba's windmills in November 2006, the story circulated through the blogosphere, and TED conference director Emeka Okafor (TED) invited Kamkwamba to speak at TED Global 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania as a guest. His speech moved the audience, and several venture capitalists at the conference pledged to help finance his secondary education. His story was covered by Sarah Childress for the Wall Street Journal. He became a student at African Bible College Christian Academy in Lilongwe, but is now on a scholarship at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Here's the first TED conference in Tanzania (2007), which shows just how nervous Kamkwamba was; followed by the second TED conference in the UK where Kamkwamba is now more confident with aspirations to take his dreams even farther.



Wired has very good coverage of the story, the materials he scrounged from neighboring dumpyards, some of the hardship, etc.

Here's a short film, Moving Windmills, which should come as no surprise that it (and this whole inspirational story) is being made into a feature-length documentary.


His story is given in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, written by himself and Bryan Mealer, published in 2009 (ISBN 9780061730320). Kamkwamba took part in the first event celebrating his particular type of ingenuity, called Maker Faire Africa, which took place in Ghana in August 2009.  ▣

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