Teenager signs £60,000 contract to develop his own solar panel technology

Kelvin Doe is only 16, but in May he signed a $100,000 (£60,000) contract with Canadian firm Sierra WiFi to research, design, test and develop his own solar-panel technology, to be installed at 400 3G network sites around Sierra Leone. Not only is he leading…

Kelvin Doe is only 16, but in May he signed a $100,000 (£60,000) contract with Canadian firm Sierra WiFi to research, design, test and develop his own solar-panel technology, to be installed at 400 3G network sites around Sierra Leone. Not only is he leading the project, but the company is building him his own research lab. He’s not daunted. Using only scrap components found in the garbage dumps in his hometown, the Dworzak Farm district of the capital Freetown, Doe has been inventing things since he was 11. By the age of 13 he was a fully self-taught electrical engineer, inventing a metal, soda and alkali battery that his neighbours use to light their homes reliably. At 14, he was playing local parties under the name DJ Focus, using mixers, amplifiers and microphones he built himself. “I believe if you focus, you can do an invention perfectly,” he says. Soon he’d rigged up his own antenna, running a radio station out of his house and earning enough to pay for staff — average age, 12. These inventions made him a finalist in NGO Global Minimum’s 2012 Innovate Salone, attracting the attention of MIT Media Lab graduate student David Sengeh. He invited Doe to the 2012 World Maker Faire in New York, and then to become the youngest

ever MIT Visiting Practitioners Program participant, learning from
engineers there and presenting his work to
students. In April, Doe received the
Presidential Gold Medal Award from Sierra
Leonean president Ernest Bai Koroma for his
work.

“I urge you to look for young people with talent and
passion, not just in the places you expect to find it,” Doe says in
his viral TEDxTeen talk. “You never know, you might find the next DJ Focus.”

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