Kelvin Doe (DJ Focus)
At Kelvin Doe’s house in Freetown, Sierra Leone, having electricity had always been a rare event. So it might sound surprising that at the age of 10, Kelvin planned to start up a local FM radio station and started assembling some salvaged parts. How would he get the power? He would build batteries, that’s how. At the age of 13, Kelvin managed to reverse engineer a battery, using acid, soda, a piece of metal, a tin cup, and sorcerer-like intuition.
Soon Kelvin had also built a 12V generator out of old DVD players, which he used to keep his battery charged. This in turn powered an amplifier, mixing deck and FM transmitter, also put together by Kelvin with discarded parts, old bits of wire he found in the dustbin — and, of course, bits of cardboard. It’s like cyberpunk version of Caine’s Arcade.
Now aged 16, Kelvin has already become a power-hub of his community. Known on the airwaves as DJ Focus — “They call me DJ Focus because I believe if you focus, you can do an invention perfectly” — he broadcasts on his radio station daily along with his team (average age 12), and is beginning to fulfill his ambition of helping his community through sharing information. Neighbours come to his house to charge their phones; he sells batteries to power their lights and invests the money in more battery acid. And he DJs at all the kids’ parties.
Clearly Kelvin is an amazing young inventor, but how do we know his story? Luckily his talent was spotted by MIT doctoral student David Sengeh, who runs a national high school innovation competition in Sierra Leone: Innovate Salone. When MIT got wind of Kelvin’s story, he became the youngest person ever to be invited to the university’s “Visiting Practitioner’s Programme”. He took to the stage at MakerFaire New York as one of the “Young Makers”, and was a guest presenter at Harvard School of Engineering. Before the trip, he had never been more than 10 miles from home.
Observe the amazing story of Kelvin Doe:
Now back in Sierra Leone, Kelvin is determined to help his community. “Whatever things I’ve learned here, I will share it with my friends, colleagues and loved ones,” he said. Taking his role as a community leader seriously, he now accepts the more expansive title of “General Focus”. Hear him in full flow in the video below, where he accepts the innovation prize of $500 with inspirational modesty and ambition:
Innovate Salone aims to promote innovation among the youth of Sierra Leone. Support Innovate Salone