At the age of 14, William Kamkwamba saw poverty in his village in Malawi, Africa. He was forced to quit school because his family couldn't afford the $80/year price tag and, so, he went home to help his family work.
Shortly after, he continued his scientific studies by approaching local libraries; it was here he saw a book with a windmill on it.
"I thought: 'That could be a defence against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself,'" he says.
He began building a turbine from spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan blade and an old shock absorber, and fashioned blades from plastic pipes, flattened by being held over a fire.
"People thought I was smoking marijuana," he said. "So I told them I was only making something for juju [magic].' Then they said: 'Ah, I see.' I got a few electric shocks climbing that [windmill]," he says.
But he continued his work. Eventually, he completed his first windmill, brought a lightbulb up to the top and turned it on in front of a village of onlookers. they went nuts.
"Many, including my mother, thought I was going crazy," he recalls. "They had never seen a windmill before."
After successfully building his first windmill, he went on to build another that could pump water. From here, he gathered global attention and even found himself on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. He began to be flown to conferences around the world.
"I had never seen the internet, it was amazing," he says. "I Googled about windmills and found so much information."
Now he has broadened his scope, aiming to power his entire country.
"I want to help my country and apply the knowledge I've learned," he says. "I feel there's lots of work to be done."