16-year-old from Sierra Leone builds his own devices out of scrap to help his community

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Move over, MacGyver—a 16-year-old teenager named Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone is building devices out of scrap metal, including batteries, generators, and transmitters, the very same things that we find in smartphones, radios, and what powers our gadgets or makes them interactive. The remarkable thing is that he has taught himself to do this since the age of 13 finding only scraps in the trash for his creations, and has gained the attention of one of the most prestigious technical universities in the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is the youngest person in MIT’s history to be invited to their “Visiting Practitioner’s Program.”

Doe is also a DJ, going by the name DJ Focus, and he manages his own fully-staffed community radio station in Sierra Leone where he broadcasts news and plays music. The radio station is powered by a generator created from a deteriorating voltage stabilizer, which he found in the trash, while a simple antenna lets his neighborhood listen in.

“I believe if you focus, you can do an invention perfectly,” Doe said. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, and electricity, as a result, is sporadically available. “The lights will come on once in a week, and the rest of the month, dark,” he added. He created a battery to power the homes in his neighborhood to fix this, which was a combination of soda, acid and metal, wrapped together by tape.

Soon he will be a resident practitioner with the International Development Initiative at MIT and a guest presenter at Harvard School of Engineering, where he’ll gain even more practical knowledge to help his community.

“Whatever things I’ve learned here, I will share it with my friends, colleagues and loved ones,” Doe said.