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Sierra Leone teenager makes FM transmitter and battery from junkyard scraps

Regardless of the living conditions and time, the human spirit will never cease to amaze us.  Take for instance a 16-year boy from Sierra Leone who found ways of inventing gadgets using nothing more than scraps from the junkyard.

Kelvin Doe never took an engineering class and probably doesn’t even know what a RadioShack is, but somehow he still managed make his own FM transmitter and a battery that can pump enough juice to power the lightings in his family’s home.

Going by the name of DJ Focus during his radio broadcasts using his homemade FM equipment, Kelvin reaches out to his community with music as well as issues and news relevant to the people that are tuning in.  He and his staff (average age of 12), have interviewed guests from sporting events, and scheduled special DJ events to prove that neither age nor lack resources can prevent them from pursuing their passion.

(Kelvin with his homemade FM transmitter and battery.)


“If we have a radio station in my community the people can be able to debate about issues affecting our community and Sierra Leone as a whole,” he said.  “People normally call me DJ focus in my community, because I believe if you focus you can do invention perfectly.  I DJ every day.”

David Sengeh, also a native of Sierra Leone and a MIT doctoral student, first met Kelvin at a “Summer Innovation Camp” in the teenager’s country.  Sengeh immediately saw Kelvin’s immense potential and personally made it his mission to help broaden Kelvin’s mind by bringing him to the U.S.  Once in the States, faculties and students at MIT (among other institutions) showered Kelvin with hoards of useful information which Kelvin said he will pass on to his family, friends, and colleagues once he goes back home.

According to World Bank 2011 statistics, Sierra Leone’s GDP is $2.24 billion, and if you compare that to the $15.09 trillion of the U.S.’s it just goes to show how scarce resources can be for Kelvin and other children who have aspirations to learn about technology and obtain higher education.

Sengeh acknowledges that there are more kids like Kelvin in Sierra Leone, as well as Africa as a whole, and it’s important to remember that Kelvin “is not the only young person… ready to embrace [the] opportunities” given the chances.

“I love inventing,” said Kelvin.  “I want to help my family to provide the facility for them.  My next invention will be a windmill for people to use for electricity supply.  [My aim] is to promote innovation among young people in Sierra Leone.”


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