15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.
Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT. THNKR had exclusive access to Kelvin and his life-changing journey – experiencing the US for the first time, exploring incredible opportunities, contending with homesickness, and mapping out his future.
Even the most precocious child probably does not have anything on Kelvin Doe. This 15-year-old wunderkind from Sierra Leone has built generators, batteries, and FM radios using parts he found in the trash. He takes things that would otherwise have been thrown out and, with almost no formal training, turns them into useful products.
Kelvin Doe’s inventions are especially valuable in his home country of Sierra Leone, where, according to Kelvin, the lights there only turn on “about once a week.” Kelvin builds batteries and generators to provide electricity for his family. He also uses his FM radio and self-made mixer and amplifier to run a successful radio station, where he is known as DJ Focus. Kelvin says he hopes to use his radio station as a way for the youth in Sierra Leone to debate about issues in their area. He says he plans to build a windmill to provide more stable electricity for his town
Kelvin Doe came to MIT as part of their Visiting Practitioners Program. The Program allows inventors to use MIT’s plentiful resources and perform their own research in the MIT labs. Kelvin became the youngest ever Visiting Practitioner after winning the Innovate Salone Challenge.
Innovate Salone runs a program that asks young Sierra Leonians to creatively come up with solutions to problems facing their community. David Sengeh, who helps run the Innovate Salone and who was a key player in bringing Kelvin Doe to the U.S., told TakePart about some of the amazing projects that resulted from the Challenge.
“There was a team of high school kids that made a farm so they could feed students at their school,” Kelvin Doe said. “There was a group of girls who, through art and drama, tried to change the message about [Female Genital Mutilation]. We had applications from 300 students and we ended up choosing eight finalists.”