Fifteen-year-old Gitanjali Rao of Lone Tree, Colorado, has been chosen as TIME magazine’s first Kid of the Year from over 5,000 nominees.
As a young girl with an affinity for science and technology, Rao tackled issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction as well as cyberbullying.
She was in the third grade when she started thinking about how to use technology to effect social change and ended up doing researching carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water quality research laboratory. Carbon nanotubes are molecules formed by carbon atoms that can recognize chemicals in water, among other purposes.
Rao also produced the app Kindly, which uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying early on. She explained that she incorporated words that could be considered bullying which then expanded to include similar words. Kids and teen can type in a word or phrase and the technology can tell if it can be construed or bullying. The goal is to give the youth the option to edit their text or send it as is.
This young achiever has also mentored 30,000 students, an endeavor that started off as simple presentations and lesson plans, but grew to include labs and contests that students could join. She has since partnered with rural schools, girls in STEM organizations, museums across the globe and bigger institutions like Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, to run innovation workshops.
These workshops, Rao said, gave its young participants a chance and a push to realize their solution ideas and shows them what can be achieved in 45 minutes to an hour—the length of one such workshop—let alone dedicated months of work on a project.
Rao is currently studying easy detection of bio-contaminants in water, like parasites. She said that she is aiming for something accurate and inexpensive so that it is more accessible to third-world countries.
Photo: Yahoo News Canada