Fifteen-year-old Indian-American Gitanjali Rao, a “brilliant” young scientist and inventor, has been named by TIME magazine as the first-ever Kid of the Year’ for her “astonishing work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
The young girl learnt about the Flint water crisis while watching news and became interested in ways to measure the lead content in water. For this, she developed a device based on carbon nanotubes that could send information via bluetooth.
She also happens to be a TEDx speaker and was awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency President’s Environmental Youth Award in 2018. She also has the Top “Health” Pillar Prize for in her kitty.
“Student, fencer, author, speaker, community volunteer, science enthusiast, STEM promoter and board member,” says her introduction on Twitter. She has also authored a book Young Innovators Guide to STEM.
“Today’s complex world with its unique challenges needs an innovation movement. The book details a prescriptive process and encourages everybody to be a problem solver,” she wrote about her book in one of the tweets.
I am pleased to announce the pre-release of my new book. Today's complex world with its unique challenges needs an innovation movement. The book details a prescriptive process and encourages everybody to be a problem solver!https://t.co/0nyTGSIdek
— Gitanjali Rao (@gitanjaliarao) September 23, 2020
Rao was selected from a field of more than 5,000 nominees was interviewed by actor and activist Angelina Jolie for the TIME special.
“Even over video chat, her brilliant mind and generous spirit shone through, along with her inspiring message to other young people: don’t try to fix every problem, just focus on one that excites you,” Jolie writes about Rao.
“I started to hard-code in some words that could be considered bullying, and then my engine took those words and identified words that are similar. You type in a word or phrase, and it’s able to pick it up if it’s bullying, and it gives you the option to edit it or send it the way it is,” Rao explained to Jolie over a video call.
Rao is currently working on what she calls an “an easy way to help detect bio-contaminants in waterethings like parasites”.
Rao told Jolie she hopes to create something “inexpensive and accurate” so that people in poorer economies can use it to test their water quality. A huge fan of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she wants to study genetics and epidemiology from there. She has also spoken up about the gender pay gap.
(with inputs from agencies)