For their summer reading assignment, Cornerstone’s 7th and 8th-grade students read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the story of 14-year-old William Kamkwamba. Faced with famine and a food shortage, William was forced to drop out of school but was determined to continue his education. He walked 4 miles a day to his local library and translated a science textbook, which was written in English, into his native language. With newfound knowledge about electricity, he scoured the village junkyard to salvage parts and built a working windmill that successfully generated an electric current. His family’s mud hut was the only one in the village with electric light - one single lightbulb!
Talk of his windmill spread leading to an invitation to a local science conference in Africa and later, to the United States to give a TED Talk. William graduated from Dartmouth College and eventually returned to his hometown of Wimbe and completed even more life-giving projects for his childhood community. William continues to share his message of hope, determination and improving the world through science and technology.
Better By Design
After reading the novel, students completed a project of their choice. Many students built small windmills and several of those had moving parts. The most notable creation was made by Jack Odom, who used a 3D printer to create the parts of his 3-foot-tall windmill! He even wired the windmill to light up a small flashlight bulb as the blades turned.
Jack Odom shared, “What inspired me most about William was his curiosity and tenacity. He not only had little to work with and no one to teach him, but he also faced life challenges like famine and poverty. Despite all this, he demonstrated incredible drive and ingenuity in making something that radically changed his life out of almost nothing.”
“As for my project, I thought it would be cool to make a working windmill, one that actually generated electricity. I had been learning to use a 3D printer that I received for my birthday, so I knew I could make most of the parts. I also found helpful engineering drawings and plans online that laid out the process for me. There were certainly a few challenges along the way (part breakage, my first motor did not work), but it was pretty thrilling to see my little flashlight bulb light up for the first time. My project was nowhere near as ambitious as William's windmill, but working on my own version gave me a deep appreciation for what he accomplished,” added Jack.
Other projects submitted by students included maps, timelines, replicas of mud huts, comic strips, movie trailers, and more. Many of these projects were displayed during the Middle School Free to Read Gathering. Students watched a video with an update on William's current endeavors and were then given the opportunity to do what William once did in his early childhood - build a toy out of items that would typically be thrown in the trash.
Trash Into Treasure
After leading students in a brief discussion, English teacher, Mrs. White, divided students into smaller groups and distributed a bag of random supplies. Students had to use ingenuity, creativity, and bartering to create either a soccer ball, a toy car, or a truck. The goal was for each group to successfully complete the challenge using what materials they had.
“It was fun, chaotic, and exciting to watch their determination, entrepreneurial spirit, and teamwork,” said Mrs. White.
God is the maker of the wind, Kamkwamba harnessed the wind, and that wind blows everywhere, inviting all of us to come and find life. What an amazing revelation! Click here to listen to more of William Kamkwamba’s story.
For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind,
And declares to a person what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
And treads on the high places of the earth,
The Lord God of armies is His name.
Amos 4:13 (NASB)