DIY Africa: Empowering a new Sierra Leone
November 14th, 2012
08:36 AM ET

DIY Africa: Empowering a new Sierra Leone

Editor's note: David Sengeh is a doctoral student working at MIT’s Media Lab.

By David Sengeh, Special to CNN

(CNN) - When Kelvin Doe, a then-13-year-old from Sierra Leone, saw that off-the-shelf batteries were too expensive for the inventions he was working on, he made his own at home. Kelvin did not have the privilege to do his project in a school environment. Rather, he was compelled to act by necessity and for the joy of solving practical problems. Kelvin combined acid, soda, and metal, dumped those ingredients in a tin cup, waited for the mixture to dry and wrapped tape around the cup to make his first battery. He failed several times before completing a final, working prototype. He hasn’t purchased a battery since.

Next up: A generator. Kelvin made one of those by hacking an old rusty voltage stabilizer he found in a dustbin. The generator’s motor, plug, and other components are either homemade or picked from the garbage. In addition to providing electricity to his home, where neighbors come to charge their mobile phone batteries, the generator powers Kelvin’s homemade FM radio station, fully equipped with a custom music mixer, recycled CD player and antenna that allow his whole neighborhood to tune in. Now 16, Kelvin has expanded operations: he employs his friends as reporters and station managers, tasking them to interview spectators at local soccer games and keep the calendar of requests for his DJ services at parties and events. The average age of his crew is 12.

I am a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab working on developing the next generation of prosthetic sockets and wearable mechanical interfaces. I am motivated to do this work by the needs I have seen in my country, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere. At the MIT Media Lab, I have access to immense resources and expertise. But it has become apparent to me that when I take the prostheses back to Sierra Leone, the machines and technologies needed to maintain them will be left at my lab. And, as important, the recipients of the technology will not have participated in finding solutions to their problems nor shared in the joy of creation.

To create an interest in innovation - a key driver of national development - I recently launched a national high school innovation challenge, called Innovate Salone, in Sierra Leone through an international organization called Global Minimum. In March 2012, we asked students to invent solutions to problems that they saw in their daily lives. Six weeks later, 300 students submitted applications encompassing some of Sierra Leone’s toughest problems. Some of them proposed new ways of providing quality education via the radio. Others suggested new agricultural programs for their communities. Eight finalist teams received several types of assistance: $500 to develop a prototype for their ideas; access to a network of local and international mentors; an invitation to a 3-day immersive summer innovation camp; and an additional $1,000 if their initial prototypes were still considered feasible, innovative, and especially promising after the first phase of development. Kelvin and I crossed paths through the Innovate Salone program.

Kelvin, who, before this past summer’s innovation camp, had not left a 10-mile radius of his home, was at the 2012 World Maker Faire held in New York at the end of September. He was invited to participate in a “Meet the Young Makers” panel with four other amazing young makers from America. He is the youngest person in history to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT, and he presented his inventions to undergraduate students at Harvard College and MIT. Other people Kelvin got to interact with include technology visionaries like Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Lab and education leaders like President Drew Faust of Harvard University.

While Kelvin indeed has special talents, he is not the only young person in Sierra Leone ready to embrace opportunities like this. Since the launch of Innovate Salone, I have encountered young boys and girls who are pursuing their dreams. One girl has started boiling leaves because she wants to launch a fragrance company. Another young man, who has taken classes on MIT Open Courseware, is making huge strides in creating a robot in his house.

As a Sierra Leonean who was given an opportunity to pursue biomedical engineering at Harvard and now a Ph.D. at MIT, I understand that a basic set of tools and a supporting platform are needed to transform good ideas into projects that impact an entire community. Innovate Salone is hoping to make those tools and that support widely available. The youth of Sierra Leone are ready and capable of transforming their country. By providing them with resources and creative freedom, we can spark the joy of discovery that results in innovation and ultimately, national development.

Please Follow us, Like us, and check out our photos!


Filed under: Design • Education • entrepreneurs • Future • Innovation • Robots • Social change • The Next List • World
soundoff (164 Responses)
  1. visit

    Bombowy i bezproblemowy do przeczytania tekst, oby więcej takich

    October 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  2. zabor ilenta

    Thanks for every other informative website. The place else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal way? I've a project that I am simply now working on, and I have been at the look out for such info.

    http://www.zaborilenta.com/

    September 26, 2014 at 2:50 am | Reply
  3. belkin wemo baby monitor review

    Do I Really Require An Angelcare Infant Monitor
    best baby monitor
    Each child is different, some mothers and fathers can hold off on this transition till age 3 whilst other people show signs of readiness by as early as eighteen months. Keeping security in mind, it is time to make the transfer if your kid is demonstrating the capability to get out of the crib on their own. The twins began climbing / jumping out at age 19 months. We have wooden floors in the nursery, making this move a priority to beds a precedence.
    The Summer time Toddler Working day & Evening Color Handheld best best baby monitor is compact, handy, lightweight and portable. You can attach the keep track of to the integrated belt clip or just place it on any flat surface, a stand is integrated. You could also use the included mounting components and mount it to a wall.
    The ability of the digital camera to Pan and Zoom is an added reward best baby monitor supplying viewing versatility. This Pan and Zoom function would be a large advantage for looking after toddlers!
    iphone baby monitor
    How about the initial time you hire that kid down the street to view the infant while you and your partner go out to appreciate a film? You may physically be in the theatre, mentally you are at home. You sit there worrying about the baby.
    Multiple channels. Less costly baby monitor reviews monitors usually only provide two channels, whilst other models may offer dozens to choose from. More channels can be an advantage simply because if you're obtaining a great deal of static and interference on 1, you can switch to an additional channel to attempt and get rid of it.
    Cisco-Linksys E3000 is an excessive-effectiveness router intended for gaming and video clip streaming which is right utilized for your Apple Television or Roku. The router is powered by the newest wi-fi 802.11n technology provide the high speeds of up to 300Mbps (in ultimate situations) and is also twin-band assistance developed for each two.4GHz and 5GHz simultaneously.
    You can get much more info about the Philips Avent Digital Display Infant Keep track of with DECT Technology by clicking on the links beneath and you will also discover out exactly where you can be the best prices from the most trusted shopping site on the Web!
    Click for check the related articles:
    belkin wemo baby monitor review
    foscam fbm3501 digital video baby monitor review
    belkin wemo baby monitor review http://www.topbabymonitorreview.com/foscam-fbm3501-digital-video-baby-monitor-review/

    May 18, 2014 at 3:25 am | Reply
  4. vanboy

    Hi,br /Being the female household cook, FFC?, in our home, I from time to time approach the kitchen as a drag. I discovered your website shopping to explore pan sauces and also discovered "real" sauteing! Wonderful instructions! I have observed this so intimidating. Now I am inspired to test out a different quick cooking method that never created sense before. Thanks!

    pappy

    March 29, 2014 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  5. Merideth Schaber

    Dude.. I am not substantially into studying, but somehow I obtained to undergo lots of report information together with your net web site. Its amazing how attention-grabbing it genuinely is for me to go to you pretty frequently.

    http://www.AqhbeNYqjy.com/AqhbeNYqjy

    March 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  6. Fausto Segar

    I'm really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues? A number of my blog visitors have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any solutions to help fix this problem?

    http://www.lamana.com

    January 7, 2014 at 7:13 am | Reply
  7. dairy free recipes

    you are really a excellent webmaster. The web site loading pace is amazing. It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a wonderful job on this topic!
    dairy free recipes http://glutenfreebreakfastideas.com/drinking-gluten-free-beverages

    December 23, 2013 at 3:04 am | Reply
  8. large meeting room screen

    nice work ! keep doing...! thanks for sharing..!
    large meeting room screen

    September 26, 2013 at 12:30 am | Reply
  9. Merissa

    I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I've got you book marked to look at new stuff you post…

    September 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  10. beer stein

    can the dmv help lower insurance costs?
    beer stein http://www.ratekicksucks.com/

    September 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  11. Raymond

    Yes! Finally someone writes about healthy recipes.

    August 31, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
  12. Arlene

    Hello, constantly i used to check web site posts here in the early hours in the daylight, since i like to find out more and more.

    August 29, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
  13. Trent

    But what about sliding patio doors for adults and youngsters. They protect kids from falling off and hurting themselves. If you don't have a lot of fun. 5" wide Our Twin over Full Stair Stepper bunk bed is typically desired due to some crowding in bedrooms.

    August 16, 2013 at 4:31 am | Reply
  14. Kristy

    Good replies in return of this query with genuine arguments and describing everything regarding that.

    August 7, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  15. Coral

    Do you have a spam problem on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wondering your situation; many of us have created some nice procedures and we are looking to trade methods with other folks, be sure to shoot me an e-mail if interested.

    August 7, 2013 at 11:26 am | Reply
  16. Corazon

    Hello colleagues, how is all, and what you would like to say about this piece of writing, in my view its truly remarkable for me.

    July 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  17. Morris

    Wow, wonderful weblog structure! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for? you make running a blog glance easy. The overall glance of your site is great, as neatly as the content!

    July 27, 2013 at 9:27 am | Reply
  18. Robbin

    What's Going down i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I've discovered It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I'm hoping to give a contribution & help other users like its aided me. Good job.

    July 27, 2013 at 6:17 am | Reply
  19. Cheri

    great points altogether, you simply gained a new reader. What could you suggest in regards to your submit that you simply made some days ago? Any certain?

    July 27, 2013 at 2:31 am | Reply
  20. Issac

    Hey There. I found your weblog the use of msn. This is an extremely neatly written article. I'll be sure to bookmark it and return to learn more of your useful info. Thank you for the post. I'll certainly return.

    July 26, 2013 at 9:40 am | Reply
  21. Lashonda

    excellent submit, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I'm confident, you have a huge readers' base already!

    July 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  22. Young

    I'm no longer sure where you're getting your information, but great topic. I must spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this info for my mission.

    July 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  23. Jeff

    Piece of writing writing is also a fun, if you be familiar with after that you can write if not it is complicated to write.

    July 23, 2013 at 11:54 am | Reply
  24. Creissant

    Actually when someone doesn't know after that its up to other people that they will assist, so here it takes place.

    July 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  25. Une Voyance Par Telephone

    After checking out a number of the blog posts on your site,
    I really appreciate your technique of blogging. I added it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back
    soon. Take a look at my website as well and tell me your opinion.

    July 17, 2013 at 7:31 am | Reply
  26. Grover

    I'm impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that's both educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.

    July 15, 2013 at 1:35 am | Reply
  27. Celinda

    Hello! I know this is somewhat off-topic however I needed to ask. Does operating a well-established blog such as yours require a massive amount work? I'm brand new to writing a blog but I do write in my diary on a daily basis. I'd like to start a blog so I can share my own experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

    July 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  28. Carlota

    Hello! I could have sworn I've visited your blog before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it's new to me. Regardless, I'm certainly delighted I found it and I'll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

    July 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  29. Poppy

    So it really is greater to decide a 5-8 mega pixel cam and pay out far more consideration to the Nikon digital camera batteries in its place. Of course, doing backup is the best way to avoid image loss. It is owner by Matt Furer who has been fixing cameras for 22 years.

    July 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Reply
  30. Justina

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.

    July 7, 2013 at 1:00 am | Reply
  31. Brandy

    Excellent web site. Lots of helpful info here. I am sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your effort!

    July 6, 2013 at 7:05 am | Reply
  32. SEO

    This is a great article. Don't forget to check out the affordable SEO services. For just $99/month we will optimize your website for 100 SEO Keywords. We are one of the TOP 10 SEO Service providers in Canada, ranked 7th in Google.ca for the keyword "SEO". Hope to hear from you soon. SEO http://www.youtube.com/user/SEOinVancouver

    July 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  33. Eugene

    The Canon 5D Mark III is far better at high ISO than the Nikon D4, period. Canon cameras are the loved of millions of photographers who want to explore more sides of photography. No matter how much you pay for something, it's going to have something about it that you either don't like or don't require.

    June 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  34. Charissa

    No matter if some one searches for his necessary thing, therefore he/she wishes to be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here.

    June 29, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
  35. Norman

    Hi, yeah this article is in fact pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it regarding blogging. thanks.

    June 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  36. Quincy

    Hello, i feel that i noticed you visited my blog thus i got here to go back the want?.I am attempting to in finding things to improve my web site!I assume its ok to make use of a few of your concepts!!

    June 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.