Featured speaker: William Kamkwamba
William Kamkwamba co-wrote the New York Times best-seller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The story chronicles how the now 25-year-old Kamkwamba brought electricity and the promise of a better life to his family and village in Malawi.
The second oldest of seven children, Kamkwamba grew up on his family’s farm in Wimbe, two-and-a-half hours northeast of Malawi’s capital city. In 2001, a severe famine and financial hardship forced him to drop out of school. At the age of 14, determined to continue his education, he began borrowing books from a small community library. These books kindled a passion for science and discovery and inspired Kamkwamba to find a way to bring electric power to his home. He built his first windmill out of a broken bicycle, a tractor fan blade, an old shock absorber and blue gum trees. The system was able to power four light bulbs and charge neighbors’ mobile phones. He has built three windmills at his family’s home and a solar-powered pump to provide clean water.
Kamkwamba is currently a student at Dartmouth College. His story has been featured in The Wall Street Journal as well as on Good Morning America, The Daily Show, CSPAN Book-TV and NPR. A 2007 TEDGlobal Fellow, he has spoken at multiple TED conferences, addressed audiences at the 2008 World Economic Forum, and spoken at schools and universities around the world.