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Where Innovation and Inspiration Meet

David Moinina Sengeh, born and raised in Sierra Leone, researches in the Biomechatronics Group with focuses on the design of comfortable prosthetic sockets and wearable interfaces.

Since his interview on our stage, David has accepted the role as the first Chief Innovation Officer of Sierra Leone, his home country; he will head the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation. David will be operating within the Office of the President, which is different than others on the continent. Did we also mention he is only 31 years old?

Sengeh’s childhood he describes as “learning the rules, and then breaking them.”

However, it was during his childhood and relationship with his Uncle that helped him find what he is passionate about.

Sengeh’s Uncle worked as a surgeon, and would bring him on trips to see patients, and would even let him wear scrubs and watch him perform surgeries. If you asked his family at that time “What is David going to be when he grows up?” they all would have answered surgeon. It wasn’t until Sengeh and his Uncle had to decline a patient work because they didn’t have the right technology that he would consider bio-engineering.

Having to decline a patient treatment sprung Sengeh and inspired him into molding his future to help people like that patient get the help they need. 

Working on his PhD at the MIT Media Lab, Sengeh’s work focused on prosthetic limbs. He was determined to tackle the problem that prosthetic limbs are not comfortable, and even victims who get them for free do not use them because of how they feel.

Sengeh’s design works differently than other prosthetic models because it uses technology to get the best fit and comfort. Using an MRI scan, Sengeh can determine what the shape of the socket can be (where your limb connects to the prosthetic) and what the pressure points are.

What also makes Sengeh’s process and design different, is that you don’t need to have a one on one appointment with him. The MRI scan can be delivered the pictures can be used to make a perfect model.

Before his business of designing prosthetics, Sengeh has always been an innovator and an activist for change. Growing up in Sierra Leone,  he found himself at the forefront of global issues. While he is a strong defender of his country, he is also its biggest critic.

In high school David and his peers started a program called ‘Global Minimum‘ that made it their mission to help young people solve problems in their community. Sengeh worked by challenging the kids and giving them scenarios to work through, as well as being their mentor.

When Ebola hit, Global Minimum had to solve the problem of kids getting an education when schools were shut down. Lessons were given on the radio for listeners to get a course in, and the students were challenged to create their own story about Ebola.

Sengeh said one of the biggest accomplishments from a  student at that time was the creation of a video telling the story of what happens when a survivor goes back home after getting this disease. The student who made the film was not just told what to do, but was challenged to thing critically and analytically, and that is how he got the best results.

In collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative, GMin has committed to launching four InLabs across Sierra Leone as a space for learning, making and action by youth. 

The interview was conducted by Kate Krontiris, the Principal Investigator for the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck project, out of Emerson College and the MIT Media Lab. Kate and David got engaged the morning of the interview, and now live with their daughter in Nairobi, Kenya.

Thank you David and Kate for not only being an inspiration to the TEDxBeaconStreet community, but also to the world.

To learn  more, watch HERE