Posts Tagged ‘Malawi’

Do not watch this video if you have ever struggled to put together a flatpack IKEA bookshelf.

William Kamkwamba was born August 5, 1987 in Dowa, Malawi, and grew up on his family farm in Masitala Village…Due to severe famine in 2001, his family lacked the funds to pay the $80 in annual school fees and William was forced to drop out of school a few months into his freshman year. For five years he was unable to go to school…
Starting at 14, rather than accept his fate, William started borrowing books from a small community lending library located at his former primary school. He borrowed an 8th grade American textbook called Using Energy, which depicted wind turbines on its cover. He decided to build a windmill to power his family’s home and obviate the need for kerosene, which provided only smoky, flickering, distant and expensive light after dark. First he built a prototype using a radio motor, then his initial 5-meter windmill out of a broken bicycle, tractor fan blade, old shock absorber, and blue gum trees. After hooking the windmill to a car battery for storage, William was able to power four light bulbs and charge neighbors’ mobile phones. This system was even equipped with homemade light switches and a circuit breaker made from nails, wire, and magnets. The windmill was later extended to 12 meters to better catch the wind above the trees. A third windmill pumped grey water for irrigation.

This is seriously impressive. He had never seen or even heard of the concept of a windmill before. Nor could he read the English printed on the textbook. It’s not like an 8th grade science textbook gives a step by step guide on constructing a windmill anyway – his mind would have had to make several leaps in logical construction between what he could understand (pictures and diagrams), what he might be able guess and decipher (words, plus pictures), and thinking very laterally about construction given resource constraints. At the age of 14.