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How a Malawi teen used junk to put wind to work

By Anonymous (not verified), February 21, 2012
William's windmill was built using pictures and diagrams. Photo: whiteafrican<a href=""> (Flicker)</a>
William's windmill was built using pictures and diagrams. Photo: whiteafrican (Flicker)

Technology doesn’t always come from experts with expensive equipment. William Kamkwamba’s junkyard windmill proves it.

Forced to quit school due to Malawi’s famine in 2001, William, then 14 years old, was determined to continue learning and sought out the library. Everything changed when he came across a book with a picture of a windmill.

“I was very interested when I saw the windmill could make electricity and pump water,” said William. “I thought: ‘That could be a defense against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself.'”

William’s materials came from junkyard scraps— a tractor fan, shock absorber, bicycle frame, PVC pipe, melted PVC blades, and a generator originally designed for a bicycle.

With limited English reading ability, William created his windmill through pictures and diagrams.

The finished product was a 12-watt, 16-ft tall wood windmill, the first of three he’d build from scraps. As a result, William was able to generate power into his family’s home, pump water, and provide a source for locals to charge their mobile phones.

William’s self-sufficient, proactive approach to improving the life of his family and community is living proof that anything is possible.

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