Realizing A Dream: A Young Roboticist’s Journey in Sierra Leone

David Sengeh, the MIT grad student named in our recent profile of OCW user Mohamed Harding, posted his own reflections on helping students in Sierra Leone on LinkedIn. Here is an excerpt from David’s account:

When a young boy chased after me as I left church to inquire about how I might help him realize his vision of building a robot and starting a robotics association in Sierra Leone, I was certainly startled. I was surprised not by the fact that he knew which church I attended and waited to track me down on the way home, but rather, that my prayer in church was already being answered. The urge among young people in Sierra Leone to become active problem-solvers was starting to catch on.

Mohamed S. Harding is a 17-year old student at Prince of Wales secondary school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Having professed his interest in robotics and engineering to his uncle, who then told him about Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Mohamed decided to take matters into his own hands and sought me out. I told him about Innovate Salone and the opportunity that the initiative extends to young people in Sierra Leone to experience the creative freedom so valued at MIT. As an action step, I mentioned to Mohamed a competition I knew that challenged anyone to design a robot for US$10.

While completing one of MIT’s most popular robotics classes through MIT OpenCourseWare, Mohamed used recycled materials to design and manufacture a robot in his bedroom. Describing his product, he says, “I used a chip, which I extracted it from a spoiled toy, and the components of dinosaur legs which have a gear system to make robot arms. The trunk has a USB webcam and LED lights to spy.” Mohamed’s dream is to become an engineer and promote robotics in Sierra Leone — and he will stop at nothing to accomplish that goal. He has taken at least three online college-level classes from MIT and is hungry for more.

While Mohamed’s use of OCW is exaxtly what we are trying to accomplish, we know our resources often need the guiding hand of people like David to find their way to those who can best make use of them. Our thanks go out to David and thousands of others like him who form an important link between our site and talented individuals around the world that can benefit from our materials.

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