Kelvin Doe, a 15-Year-Old Inventor, Wows at MIT

Kelvin Doe, the Sierra Leone wunderkind taught himself how to build radios and batteries from found objects.

Kelvin Doe

Kelvin Doe working his magic (Photo: YouTube)

Jenna is a Editorial Intern at TakePart and a high school senior in New York City.

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. 

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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."

Kelvin Doe definitely made the most of his time at MIT. While Kelvin was the one who was here to learn, he ended up teaching his hosts a thing or two. Sengeh said, “I learned a lot from him. He’s passionate about this and he believes he can actually change his community. It’s inspiring to hear that from someone his age.”

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