William Kamkwamba on building a windmill

William Kamkwamba, from Malawi, is a born inventor. When he was 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, working from rough plans he found in a library book called Using Energy and modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home.

Onstage, Kamkwamba talked about his invention and shared his dreams: to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village, and to go back to school.

Following Kamkwamba's moving talk, there was an outpouring of support for him and his promising work. Members of the TED community got together to help him improve his power system (by incorporating solar energy), and further his education through school and mentorships. Subsequent projects have included clean water, malaria prevention, solar power and lighting for the six homes in his family compound; a deep-water well with a solar-powered pump for clean water; and a drip irrigation system. Kamkwamba himself returned to school, and is now attending the African Leadership Academy, a new pan-African prep school outside Johannesburg, South Africa.


Public Speaking comment from Nathan: William was able to give an engaging and motivational talk without having so much as a high school education. Most people who are inexperienced presenters tend to use the same crutches: default PowerPoint themes, bullet points, notes, few pictures. But not William. Notice the simplicity of his slides. Many of them are full-bleed photographs. He doesn’t use bullet points and he speaks in a natural, conversational tone. Most importantly, his message comes from the heart. Building windmills, and engineering in general, is something that he loves.