From His Local Community in Sierra Leone to the High-Tech Labs of M.I.T: 16 Year Old Self-Taught Engineer, Kelvin Doe Impresses Experts

True talent has no hiding place. When it is utilized and developed, somehow, doors would be opened and opportunities for growth would find its way to the individual with the talent.

At the age of 13, Kelvin Doe started creating batteries and generators using materials he picked up around the house or from trash bins. He went on to manage his own fully-staffed community radio station in Sierra Leone. But somehow, his abilities were discovered  and now he is wowing experts in the U.S.

Kelvin is the youngest person in history to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT, according to CNN. In his home country of Sierra Leone, he is considered a genius.

What is noteworthy about his story is that he has no formal training. He figured out most of this on his own, and the stuff he built, he reverse-engineered from items people threw in the trash that was largely broken or otherwise useless. This is a kid who built a generator because his self-engineered radio station could use one. And also built a radio station because his community needed one.

We have not too much electricity,” Kelvin says in the video. “The lights will come on once in a week and the rest of the month, dark. So, I made my own battery to power lights in people’s houses.”

Kelvin not only taught himself how to engineer, he also plays news and music at his radio station under the name “DJ Focus.” 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.

Kelvin’s abilities was discovered during Innovate Salone, a national competition for high school students held in Sierra Leone by an international organization called Global Minimum. A Doctoral student from MIT named David Sengeh noticed him right away. Prior to the camp, Sengeh says Kelvin hadn’t left a 10-mile radius of his home.

Kelvin Doe & David Sengeh

With Sengeh’s help and funding from MIT, he journeyed to New York for the 2012 World Maker Faire in September, where he sat on a “Meet the Young Makers” panel with four American inventors.

Kelvin’s fame only promises to grow from here. 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.

In the video, he claims his next project will be a windmill for people to use for electricity supply. As he said, wiping tears from his eyes, “I want to help my family—to provide the facility for them.”

Truly inspiring stuff!

Learn more about Kelvin’s journey from Sierra Leone to M.I.T in the video below:

26 Comments on From His Local Community in Sierra Leone to the High-Tech Labs of M.I.T: 16 Year Old Self-Taught Engineer, Kelvin Doe Impresses Experts
  • Ademuwagun Emmanuel November 21, 2012 at 7:37 am

    This is very good . Where are our engineering graduates? They claim that the educational system is very bad , but here is a self trained boy. We have so many Ph.Ds who cannot do anything with what they have learn, we are just looking for the Quick life, money etc Their is no excuse for failure. It is a wake up call, it is time for our students and graduates to wake up!

  • Ebzzz Ko-eazy! November 21, 2012 at 7:41 am

    God bless him!

  • AnONYMouS November 21, 2012 at 7:41 am


  • ejiro November 21, 2012 at 7:45 am


  • Gbenga November 21, 2012 at 8:12 am

    i am also a 15 year old and i am inspired with Kelvin’s story , am working on my invention…

  • kay November 21, 2012 at 8:13 am

    big ups bruv!!!!

  • liily November 21, 2012 at 8:39 am

    #speechless….Very inspiring. God bless you my dear. I see greatness in you.

  • Lammy November 21, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Wow. Truly inspiring!

  • kingsley November 21, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Wow.. Great stuff

  • notaplayerhater November 21, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Wow!!! just wow!!!

  • eggyposh November 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

    When I say university education is overrated and simply programme humans to be zombies, people call me crazy! I wonder when our technical schools will be revived.

  • Ada November 21, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I am happy for him and glad that his talent got discovered. Thanks to all the people who help develop the talents of others.

  • Cee November 21, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Great and great! Right mind-set! Feeling the tears and seeing lots of possibilities… Salut’ genius!

  • hmm November 21, 2012 at 10:56 am

    we Africans are dimdums….infact not us normal people , our government are so silly….you see how oyinbo has taken one of our talents?…..goodluck boy…

  • nita November 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Dis is gr8! We av to get more inspiration out to pple

  • nita November 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Dis is gr8! We av to get more inspiration out to pple. BN tanks 4 posting dis!

  • chinco November 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Truly inspiring…

  • Chattyzee November 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm
  • toke November 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    his background has nothing to do with his future……wow! what a great talent. am inspired.

  • Lue November 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    for a moment there I actually cried.
    God bless you kid

  • Brandigest November 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Another great African talent lost. Ironically it’s Siere leon or indeed African that needs development and technology advancement, yet they refuse to discover and nurture young talents who CAN help the continent in that wise. Unfortunately the Whitemen are always keen on doing what our government fail to do. Goodluck and Congrats Kelvin, and more kudos to Sengeh who gave this genuis’ a voice.

  • Mz Socially Awkward… November 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    @Lue, I’m welling up as well but in a good way.

    Kevin, your story is truly inspiring and when I read where you said you’re doing all this for your family… *sniff, sniff* At 15, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t have even a 10th of your determination. May wonderful achievements continue to lie ahead of you.

  • iamfascinating November 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    wow.Thanks MIT.God be with you, Kelvin

  • faith November 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I pray he remembers his community…

  • Nwokedi George A. December 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Wow! Wonderful! Good! You are indeed a genius!

  • alice March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

    we just lost a genius im in tears great kid…..

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