Gitanjali Rao has been named as the first-ever Kid of the Year by TIME magazine for her “innovation workshops” spread across the globe. The 15-year-old Indian-American teenager is a young scientist and inventor, who has been using “technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying”.
Here are ten things you should know about Indian-American Gitanjali Rao:
1. Rao, who is based in Colorado, was selected by TIME from more than 5,000 nominees and can be seen on the 14 December cover of the magazine. She was interviewed by actor and activist Angelina Jolie. “If I can do it,” Rao said in the interview, “anybody can do it.”
— TIME (@TIME) December 3, 2020
2. Rao has won multiple awards and is a three-time TEDx-speaking entrepreneur. In 2017, she was honoured as ‘America’s top young scientist’ for inventing a quick, low-cost test to detect lead-contaminated water, according to Business Insider. At the age of 11, she was also listed by Forbes in “30 Under 30” list for her innovations.
3. Marvel even created a superhero, Genius Gitanjali after her that celebrates her work on clean water.
4. Gitanjali Rao named her device after Tethys, the Greek goddess of fresh water. She took merely five months to complete the project. Her invention was inspired by the scandal in Flint, Michigan, where officials faced charges including manslaughter over water contamination in 2014-15.
5. Rao invented Kindly app, which is also a chrome extension, that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying. “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 about her innovation that helps people apply a self-check, in order to curb cyberbullying.
— Gitanjali Rao (@gitanjaliarao) May 2, 2020
6. Gitanjali Rao was inspired to take up science at a very young age. On being asked when she knew that science was her passion, she said she always wanted to put a smile on someone’s face. “That was my everyday goal, just to make someone happy. And it soon turned into, How can we bring positivity and community to the place we live?” she added.
7. So what does Rao do in her free time? She said she enjoys baking but her hobbies are anything else besides being a “60-year-old scientist from Geneva.”
“I bake an ungodly amount. It’s not good, but it’s baking. And, like, it’s science too” she said.
8. Rao wanted to be either a geneticist or epidemiologist when she grew up, according to BBC. “My goal has really shifted not only from creating my own devices to solve the world’s problems, but inspiring others to do the same as well. Because, from personal experience, it’s not easy when you don’t see anyone else like you,” she told TIME. Lead contamination was interesting to her, she revealed, because it combines both disciplines.
— scott_kinney (@scott_kinney) October 18, 2017
9. In 2018, she was the recipient of the prestigious United States Environmental Protection Agency President’s Environmental Youth Award. The 15-year-old said, “I don’t look like your typical scientist. Everything I see on TV is that it’s an older, usually white man as a scientist. It’s weird to me that it was almost like people had assigned roles, regarding like their gender, their age, the color of their skin.” She is also a winner of the Top “Health” Pillar Prize for the TCS Ignite Innovation Student Challenge in May 2019 for developing a diagnostic tool based on advances in genetic engineering for early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction.
10. Having an immense interest in genetics, Rao wants to further her higher education in genetics and epidemiology from MIT.
Photo credit: The American Bazaar