It all started with a book.
Sisters and ASD High School students Abigail (Grade 10) and Isabel (Grade 11) were inspired to bring wind power to ASD by reading visiting author William Kamkwamba’s memoir The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.
Abigail and Isabel are actively involved in the Sustain Our World (SOW) student garden organization, which meets weekly to discuss sustainability initiatives and to plant, weed, compost, cook, and dig in the dirt. The group is responsible for, among other things, ASD’s “plant-to-plate” program—which sees healthy, organic, student-grown produce make its way to the ASD cafeteria.
After reading William’s book, and encouraging their father (an ASD Middle School Technology Coach) to do the same, the three together crafted a plan to design and build ASD’s first windmill; to make the Sustainable Garden truly sustainable—and off the grid. As Abigail excitedly put it, “A windmill could be used to generate enough electricity to completely power the garden—the water taps, the fountain, the garden lights—everything!” Isabel points out that this is a learning process. “Neither of us has ever taken any kind of engineering course but we're excited to learn and problem-solve as we go.”
They took their plan to the PTSA Grants program, which provides funding to support enhancement projects to enrich student learning. They were generously awarded 10,079 AED for their innovative idea and thoughtfully-crafted application. It details, “(We) propose to buy a windmill, learn about how it works, then engineer a windmill of our own...Both windmills can then be used to make our garden completely sustainable, which will cost less for the school...This will develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and create opportunities for students to get involved...The outcome on the school will be a smaller carbon footprint, more creative thinkers in our student body, and a project that will inspire innovation for generations to come.” With the PTSA grant, Abigail and Isabel purchased their ambitious list of supplies to build one windmill from a 400W 12V Wind Turbine Generator kit—to be a learning tool and model—and enough materials to create a second windmill on their own.
Building a windmill, building community.
Abigail and Isabel plan to keep the project student-driven and involve other k-12 students in their learning process—calling for all interested students, and in fact all members of the ASD community—to get involved. They will need help designing, assembling, and testing. No experience is necessary, and anyone who shares their passion for the environment is welcome.
The girls have already made an impact. They launched their initiative last month at the ASD Maker Faire, working with younger students to make small windmills out of paper and rubber bands. Abigail explains, “It was a maker project to get kids thinking about creating a functional paper windmill, playing with how much it weighs, how to make it spin.” It’s all part of supporting the learning process.
They next hope to glean some knowledge from William Kamkwamba himself. “We were inspired by his incredible story of building a windmill in rural Malawi from scraps he picked up in a junkyard. We would love to get some expert advice while he is at ASD.”
William Kamkwamba is part of the ASD Visiting Authors Program.