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Topic – William’s Windmill

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William’s Windmill

For the majority of young people, being forced to drop out of school is the end of their education. For William Kamkwamba, it was just the beginning of his inspiring journey to becoming an inventor and author.

School Dropout

William is from the African country of Malawi, where families must pay tuition fees to educate their children. William’s family was relatively poor and relied mostly on farming to make a living. Unfortunately, during a devastating famine in 2002, they were no longer able to afford to send him to school. So in 2002, when William was 14 years old, he was forced to drop out. Although he was disappointed, instead of becoming angry, he was determined to succeed and to be productive.

A Problem to Solve

The village of Masitala where William lived was very small and had no electricity. William’s family used candles for light, but the candle smoke made his sister choke. William did not like hearing his sister cough so painfully and he began to wonder if he could do anything about it.

Finding Inspiration in a Book

William made frequent trips to the nearby local library. There, a picture of a windmill in a book about energy caught his eye. Winds sometimes blew strongly through his village, so there was plenty of wind power. But what could he use to build a windmill?

Using the rough plans William found in a book, he gathered whatever materials he could find, including scrap wood, a broken bicycle, a tractor fan blade, and an old shock absorber. He used the wood to build a tower, then he began experimenting.

The Windmill Takes Shape

It was a challenge for William to find the parts he required, so he had to construct them. To build propeller blades for the windmill, for instance, he cut pieces of hard plastic pipe, heated them, then pounded them flat.

William was determined to stick with it—even when neighbours laughed at him. “All of these people were mocking me that I was going mad,” says William, “but I had confidence in what I was doing.”

Finally, William thought his windmill was finished. Using wire, he hooked up the windmill to a small light bulb in his bedroom. William waited breathlessly for the wind to begin turning the blades. The blades started to whirl around and William saw the light bulb in his room glowing. He had succeeded! The windmill he built was able to power four lights and two radios in his family home.

Word Gets Around

William’s village was proud of the young builder, and grateful too—his windmill generated enough energy that they could charge their batteries. One of Malawi’s top educators visited William and soon returned with journalists. William rapidly became famous and was asked to speak at conferences around the world.

Thanks to his windmill, William has been the subject of a documentary movie and has a written book about his inspiring work. What is probably most important to William is that he was able to return to school. He even attended a university in the United States. All this because of a windmill and some determination.


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