Video: William Kamkwamba on the Daily Show & a little 80's nostalgia

Duration: 7 min 44 sec

From his TED bio:

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.

My favorite thing about William’s story and this interview with John Stewart is that it provides a storybook example of how access to information either through your local library or through the internet can be life-changing. William’s current path started because he picked up a book and did what so many autodidacts and tinkerers do. He started to make things. He’s on his way to Dartmouth next year through a series of serendipitous internet events. Blogger Mike McMay (Hacktivate) read about him in a local Malawian newspaper. After reading Mike’s writeup, Emeka Okafor (Timbuktu Chronicles blogger and AIDG advisory board member) “spent several weeks tracking him down at his home in Masitala Village, Wimbe, and invited him to attend TEDGlobal on a fellowship”.

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.

After his ‘discovery’, William gets into the African Leadership Academy, a prep school in Johannesburg founded by fellow Echoing Green alums, Chris Bradford and Fred Swaniker. Somehow with all these changes going on, he also manages to write a book, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind with Bryan Mealer.

Yup, all this because of a simple trip to the library. It makes me feel rather nostalgic for Levar Burton and the Reading Rainbow. All that books can transport you stuff.

Because I imagine that the theme song is currently playing in your brain, here are the lyrics just in case that little voice inside your head forgot the words ;).

Reading Rainbow Theme Song

Reading Rainbow
Butterfly in the sky
I can go twice as high
Take a look
It’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow

I can go anywhere
Friends to know
And ways to grow
A Reading Rainbow

I can be anything
Take a look
It’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow
A Reading Rainbow

Pop the name of a book that changed your life in the comments. Mine are the Rand McNally atlas and basic science books that my mom got me as a kid. They kicked off my love of science and learning.

Related Posts
William Kamkwamba – TED Interview (Video)
Quote of the Day: Where the world sees trash, Africa recycles – Erik Hersman of Afrigadget
Entrepreneurship Principles from the African Leadership Academy
Education: Future “green” ambassadors of Guatemala!
Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do [TED]