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What inspires a youngster to the action of change despite leaving school at 14?

Electricity from recycled materials

william kWilliam Kamkwamba was only 14 years old when he built a windmill to provide his family home in a remote village in Malawi with enough electricity to read by and to listen to the radio [1].  William first started thinking about energy when he had to drop out of school early because his parents could no longer afford the school fees.  He got his idea from a book from a school library book called “Using Energy” and modified a design for a windmill with materials that were to hand such as an old bicycle, PVC pipes, a pair of worn out shoes, copper wire, and a tractor fan.

William’s inspiration for his invention was the health of his sisters.  At night their home would be lit with paraffin candles that emit toxic fumes similar to those of burning diesel which was making his sisters ill from the smoke. At first his neighbours mocked him saying that he was going mad, but William persevered with the design because the book told him that it worked.  His neighbours in the village who had no electricity at all soon changed their minds about Williams’ windmill when they realised they could re-charge their mobile phones by bringing them to his house.

His first attempt at a windmill gave the family enough energy to light one room so William decided to adapt the design further by adding a fourth rotor blade to create more power.  He asked a local tinsmith to cut more efficient steel blades from a recycled oil drum and replaced all three original blades that had been fashioned from heated, flattened and shaped PVC pipes.  In addition, he replaced a bicycle chain that doubled as a pulley rotor with an old car fan belt that worked much better.

Read more: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind