William Kamkwamba

How I built a windmill

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0:15

Chris Anderson: William, hi. Good to see you.

0:17

William Kamkwamba: Thanks.

0:18

CA: So, we've got a picture, I think? Where is this?

0:23

WK: This is my home. This is where I live.

0:27

CA: Where? What country?

0:29

WK: In Malawi, Kasungu. In Kasungu. Yeah, Mala.

0:32

CA: OK. Now, you're 19 now?

0:35

WK: Yeah. I'm 19 years now.

0:37

CA: Five years ago you had an idea. What was that?

0:40

WK: I wanted to make a windmill.

0:42

CA: A windmill?

0:43

WK: Yeah.

0:44

CA: What, to power — for lighting and stuff?

0:48

WK: Yeah.

0:50

CA: So what did you do? How did you realize that?

0:53

WK: After I dropped out of school, I went to library, and I read a book that would — "Using Energy," and I get information about doing the mill. And I tried, and I made it.

1:06

(Applause)

1:16

CA: So you copied — you exactly copied the design in the book.

1:20

WK: Ah, no. I just —

1:22

CA: What happened?

1:24

WK: In fact, a design of the windmill that was in the book, it has got four — ah — three blades, and mine has got four blades.

1:35

CA: The book had three, yours had four.

1:37

WK: Yeah.

1:38

CA: And you made it out of what?

1:40

WK: I made four blades, just because I want to increase power.

1:45

CA: OK.

1:46

WK: Yeah.

1:47

CA: You tested three, and found that four worked better?

1:49

WK: Yeah. I test.

1:51

CA: And what did you make the windmill out of? What materials did you use?

1:56

WK: I use a bicycle frame, and a pulley, and plastic pipe, what then pulls —

2:02

CA: Do we have a picture of that? Can we have the next slide?

2:05

WK: Yeah. The windmill.

2:07

CA: And so, and that windmill, what — it worked?

2:11

WK: When the wind blows, it rotates and generates.

2:16

CA: How much electricity?

2:17

WK: 12 watts.

2:19

CA: And so, that lit a light for the house? How many lights?

2:24

WK: Four bulbs and two radios.

2:26

CA: Wow.

2:27

WK: Yeah.

2:28

(Applause) CA: Next slide — so who's that?

2:40

WK: This is my parents, holding the radio.

2:43

CA: So what did they make of — that you were 14, 15 at the time — what did they make of this? They were impressed?

2:50

WK: Yeah.

2:51

CA: And so what's your — what are you going to do with this?

2:53

WK: Um —

2:55

CA: What do you — I mean — do you want to build another one?

2:59

WK: Yeah, I want to build another one — to pump water and irrigation for crops.

3:07

CA: So this one would have to be bigger?

3:09

WK: Yeah.

3:10

CA: How big?

3:11

WK: I think it will produce more than 20 the watts.

3:17

CA: So that would produce irrigation for the entire village?

3:21

WK: Yeah.

3:23

CA: Wow. And so you're talking to people here at TED to get people who might be able to help in some way to realize this dream?

3:32

WK: Yeah, if they can help me with materials, yeah.

3:36

CA: And as you think of your life going forward, you're 19 now, do you picture continuing with this dream of working in energy?

3:46

WK: Yeah. I'm still thinking to work on energy.

3:51

CA: Wow. William, it's a real honor to have you at the TED conference. Thank you so much for coming.

3:57

WK: Thank you.

3:59

(Applause)

When he was just 14 years old, Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba built his family an electricity-generating windmill from spare parts, working from rough plans he found in a library book.

About the speaker
William Kamkwamba · Inventor

To power his family's home, young William Kamkwamba built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap — starting him on a journey detailed in the book and film "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind."

To power his family's home, young William Kamkwamba built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap — starting him on a journey detailed in the book and film "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind."