William Kamkwamba is a 19-year-old Malawian with a natural technological aptitude and proclivity for mechanical innovation. When he was a young teenager and his parents couldn't pay for school, he built a windmill that could power a light in his house. With his first success achieved, he upgraded to a windmill assisted by a bicycle that could power his family's house and his neighbors' electronic devices. His talent and drive soon drew attention beyond his village and this year he was an invited speaker at TEDGlobal in Tanzania, where he gave a three-minute speech on his life-improving invention. At the conference he had his first encounter with the Internet and understood the depth and breadth of its resources in an instant. Less than a month later, he's a full-fledged blogger and a rising innovation celeb.
He's tracking his work on his blog, sharing the discoveries he's making on increasing the power and efficiency of his projects, and describing the process. Recently he upgraded the bicycle windmill by installing a treadmill motor:
I have never seen a treadmill, but understand that it is a moving belt that people walk or run on in place to get exercise. At its peak power, the treadmill motor puts out 48V DC, but with the winds in my village, it averages about 18V which is sufficient to charge the new deep cycle batteries referred to in an earlier post. My cousin Geoffrey helped me. I removed the bicycle wheel, installed the new treadmill motor, and a series of two pulleys to increase the power output from the main windmill shaft. We finished our project late this afternoon. The new motor will charge the batteries more quickly than the previous source of power, and the charge controller will keep it from overcharging them.
Kamkwamba is clearly a sponge for information and a lightning-quick learner. He's clearly on a steady upslope of improvement in his designs, and plans to build a windmill powerful enough to pump water to irrigate a vegetable garden for his family, and eventually their maize, beans and peanuts.
This may be the most remarkable post, and most remarkable individual, yet featured on Worldchanging. Hooray for William Kamkwamba! This is fantastic inspiration, and William deserves all the attention and support we can direct his way (without overwhelming him!). Thank you for telling his story and linking to his blog.
I met William and spent time with him in the Internet Cafe. And I really hope he can come to a South African university for his Engineering degree once he's completed high school. We would love to host you William and get our countries working more closely together.