Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an autobiography written by William Kamkwamba. Kamkwamba tells the story of his childhood in Malawi, growing up hungry and poor.  Since his family was not able to afford the school fees necessary to keep him enrolled in school, he began visiting a small library in his town and stumbled upon books about energy and physics.  The books inspired him to build a windmill.  With his resourcefulness and determination, Kamkwamba was able to build a windmill out of scrap metal and bicycle parts.  His hope was to bring electricity and running water to his town.  Having survived famine, Kamkwamba realized that a windmill could rotate a water pump which would allow for irrigation.  In addition, only 2% of Malawians have electricity, meaning that most Malawians are not able to be work or study after dark. Kamkwamba knew that if he could help to bring electricity to his town, it would increase productivity.

Kamkwamba's first windmill was able to light four light bulbs and power two radios in his home.  Soon, word spread of his invention, and Kamkwamba was invited to attend the annual TED (Technology, Environment, Design) conference, which brings together innovators from all over the world.  

This is a well-written, unflinching account of the power of innovation even in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances.  Kamkwamba now attends Dartmouth College.  His inspiring book reminds us that one person's ideas have the power to transform the world. 

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