Self-Taught African Boy Impresses MIT

From  comes a fascinating story about a child prodigy skilled enough to earn the attention of the esteemed MIT. From the video’s caption (which includes additional links and information).

15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.

Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT. THNKR had exclusive access to Kelvin and his life-changing journey – experiencing the US for the first time, exploring incredible opportunities, contending with homesickness, and mapping out his future.

Unfortunately, the video, which may be a tad too sentimental for some, glosses over how Kelvin managed such a remarkable feat, mentioning only that he’s “self-taught.” I’d very much like to hear him explain the creative and exploratory process that led him to do something that even those of us with the resources can’t pull off.

Stories like this – of child prodigies and other unlikely inventors – always make think: how many geniuses out there are harboring innate talents and skills that will never be known due to poverty and lack of access to educational resources? There could be millions of people just like this boy who are denied the opportunity to realize their potential. Imagine if Einstein or Newton had been born in abject poverty, without access to books, schools, or the time to focus on intellectual pursuits?

This boy pulled it off against all odds, but he’s an exceptional case: there are many more like him that remain under the radar, much to the detriment of the world. At the very least, the globalized and interconnected nature of our world (led by the internet) is allowing us to uncover such talents like never before – but it won’t be enough. The world can’t afford to let generations of potential scientists, innovators, and inventors remain unappreciated and untapped. There is no substitute for human brain power, and like any resource, it needs to be invested it and harnessed.

Traian Vuia’s Flying Machine

On this day in 1906, Romanian inventor Traian Vuia undertook the first well-documented flight of a heavier-than-air craft without any assistance in takeoff. He was also associated with the French Resistance, and between 1918 and 1921 built two experimental helicopters, contributing to the development of vertical take-off (at a time when even “regular” takeoff was difficult to pull off).

It’s a shame that so many people are unaware that numerous individuals around the world contributed to aviation. The Wright Brothers made significant and praise-worthy inroads, but like most innovators, they were hardly unilateral in their contributions to the field. Human invention is not only a product of remarkable minds, but of the human capacity to pool together our knowledge in a synergy of ingeniousness.

Read more about Vuia and his flying machine – including photos! – here.

A postcard with Vuia and his 1907 airplane Vuia II