William Kamkwamba: 'How I Harnessed the Wind' | ESL Video

William Kamkwamba: 'How I Harnessed the Wind'

Quiz by: ChezTeresaESL    

Description: TED Talk - William Kamkwamba discusses the windmill that he built.
Play Video: Keynote (Google I/O '18)
Where is William Kamkwamba from?
How many children are in his family?
What happened that changed their lives?
After William had to leave school, what did he do to continue his education?
What kind of books did he read?
The books were in English. Could he read English well?
What did he decide to build?
Why did people start lining up at his house?
What is William's message to you?
Thank you. Two years ago, I stood on the TED
stage in Arusha, Tanzania. I spoke very briefly
about one of my proudest creations. It was a
simple machine that changed my life.

Before that time, I had never been away from my
home in Malawi. I had never used a computer. I
had never seen an Internet. On the stage that
day, I was so nervous. My English lost, I
wanted to vomit. I had never been surrounded by
so many azungu, white people.

There was a story I wouldn't tell you then. But
well, I'm feeling good right now. I would like
to share that story today. We have seven
children in my family. All sisters, excepting
me. This is me with my dad when I was a little
boy. Before I discovered the wonders of
science, I was just a simple farmer in a
country of poor farmers. Like everyone else, we
grew maize.

One year our fortune turned very bad. In 2001
we experienced an awful famine. Within five
months all Malawians began to starve to death.
My family ate one meal per day, at night. Only
three swallows of nsima for each one of us. The
food passes through our bodies. We drop down to

In Malawi, the secondary school, you have to
pay school fees. Because of the hunger, I was
forced to drop out of school. I looked at my
father and looked at those dry fields. It was
the future I couldn't accept.

I felt very happy to be at the secondary
school, so I was determined to do anything
possible to receive education. So I went to a
library. I read books, science books,
especially physics. I couldn't read English
that well. I used diagrams and pictures to
learn the words around them.

Another book put that knowledge in my hands. It
said a windmill could pump water and generate
electricity. Pump water meant irrigation, a
defense against hunger, which we were
experiencing by that time. So I decided I would
build one windmill for myself. But I didn't
have materials to use, so I went to a scrap
yard where I found my materials. Many people,
including my mother, said I was crazy.

I found a tractor fan, shock absorber, PVC
pipes. Using a bicycle frame and an old bicycle
dynamo, I built my machine. It was one light at
first. And then four lights, with switches, and
even a circuit breaker, modeled after an
electric bell. Another machine pumps water for

Queues of people start lining up at my house to
charge their mobile phone. I could not get rid
of them. And the reporters came too, which lead
to bloggers and which lead to a call from
something called TED. I had never seen an
airplane before. I had never slept in a hotel.
So, on stage that day in Arusha, my English
lost, I said something like,"I tried. And I
made it."

So I would like to say something to all the
people out there like me to the Africans, and
the poor who are struggling with your dreams.
God bless. Maybe one day you will watch this on
the Internet. I say to you, trust yourself and
believe. Whatever happens, don't give up. Thank
In this TED Talk, young Malawian William Kamkwamba
describes how he built a windmill to power his family's
home aged 14, during a time of poverty and famine. The
windmill produced electricity and was built from spare parts
and scrap.

This moving tale of an invention that changed a young boy's
life is a powerful testament to the benefits of education,
access to knowledge and self-belief.

Link to the original TED talk:

Link to William Kamkwamba's first TED talk: