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Kelvin Doe with his radio equipment
Kelvin Doe with his radio equipment

Whiz kid makes own radio station from scouring trash cans

|By Riti Sinha|

Kelvin Doe’s neighborhood in Sierra Leone has power lines, but electricity is rarely available even for mundane things such as lighting homes at night. Tired of the week long power cuts, this young lad, now 17-years old decided to turn things around.

He built his own battery out of acid, soda, and metal parts scavenged from trash bins that he now uses to light up his neighbor’s homes. Living in utter poverty never deterred this self-taught engineering whiz kid from finding a way to provide a reliable power source that his family and community so desperately needed.

From the age of 10, Kelvin salvaged electronics parts from dump sites after school for his inventions and through trial-and-error and reverse engineering  built transmitters, generators, and batteries that could reliably power lights in his neighborhood.

He built a 12V generator out of old DVD players, which he used to keep his battery charged. He regularly charged neighbors phones with his equipment and by 14, Doe had put together his own radio station from the assembled transmitters, generators, capacitors and batteries.

Broadcasting from his home, he shared community news and information using a three-channel mixer, sound amplifier and microphone receiver he engineered from the recycled electronic parts, electrical tape and cardboard.

“Creativity is universal and can be found in places where one does not expect to find it. And perseverance and passion are essential to nurturing that creative ability,”

says Doe.

He got two of his friends to work by paying them a dollar whenever he received payment from working as a DJ at various ceremonies or broadcasts news and announcements.

The MIT Media Lab discovered Kelvin Doe in a global competition organised by them and he soon became the youngest person to be invited to MIT’s “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” for making a generator from scavenged parts.

While at the Program, Doe, a.k.a DJ Focus, Doe, found a mentor in fellow Sierra Leonean, David Sengeh, a 27-year-old, doctorate student in the Biomechatronics Group at MIT, who arranged for Doe to visit the engineering school.

“It’s an opportunity for him to create the future that he wants to live in,”

says Sengeh Doe says in the video produced by @radical.media for their THNKR channel.

“They call me DJ Focus because I believe if you focus, you can do an invention perfectly,”

says Doe.

 Doe also spoke at TEDxTeen where he lectured undergraduate engineering students at Harvard College. In May 2013, he signed a $100,000 solar project pact with Canadian High Speed Service Provider Sierra WiFi.

With an unselfish desire to serve his community, Doe’s current project focuses on building a windmill to provide power for his Freetown neighbors, and he hopes to become a scientist to help improve life throughout Sierra Leone.

“I love my country,”

he says, adding;

“I love my people.”

Indeed necessity still remains the mother of inventions and what this boy has built from trash is not just amazing and but also inspiring.

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