In parts of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, in West Africa, the lights come on only once a week. When he was 13, Kelvin Doe set out to light his neighborhood. He built a rechargeable battery that provides power for homes in his area.
It took several attempts before Kelvin came up with the right formula for a long-lasting battery. "The lesson I learned is perseverance," Kelvin told TFK. "To try and fail is no disgrace. I kept pushing until I got the battery to work."
In the Mix
Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation. It is beginning to recover from a decade-long civil war. More than 70% of the country's 5.6 million people live in poverty.
There are many things Kelvin can't afford. He spends nights figuring out how to build those things. Now, at 16, Kelvin runs a radio station in Freetown. It plays music and broadcasts news. And, yes, Kelvin built the music mixer as well as the generator that powers the radio station. He made both using items he found in the trash.
Last year, Kelvin presented his inventions at the World Maker Faire, in New York City. He also showed off his handiwork to students and professors at MIT and Harvard University, both located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
When Kelvin first began tinkering with trash, some people laughed at him. They said he was wasting his time. Now his work is inspiring other young people who want to improve life for the people in their communities. "The obstacles are many, but these are part of everyday life," he says. "I never let problems get me down."
This story first ran in TIME FOR KIDS, September 20, 2013.