Scientist And Inventor Named TIME Magazine’s First-Ever Kid Of The Year
A 15-year-old girl using technology to invent solutions to everything from clean drinking water to cyberbullying has been named TIME magazine’s first ever kid of the year.
Gitanjali Rao, from Lone Tree, Colorado, was selected from over 5,000 nominees for the title, and was recently interviewed by Angelina Jolie about her work for the magazine.
Figuring out what you want to do with your life is a pretty common struggle, but Rao knew from a young age that she was going to use science to improve people’s lives, saying that ‘in second or third grade, I started thinking about how can we use science and technology to create social change’.
The teenage scientist told Jolie that she was just 10 when she came up with her first research project: researching carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water quality research lab. That’s a confusing enough subject for most adults, including her parents, and since then she has gone on to work on plenty more ideas and innovations tackling a whole range of complex issues.
Her other projects include an AI-based app that can detect cyberbullying, a gene-based therapy that can monitor water for bio-contaminants, and an early-warning system for diagnosing prescription-opioid addiction. It’s an impressive record that has already seen her named America’s Top Young Scientist in 2017, and one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 last year.
But Rao isn’t just focused on her own inventions. She also wants to help other kids – girls and people of colour in particular – to feel like there’s a place for them in STEM fields typically dominated by White men.
She told Jolie:
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. So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it.
To achieve this goal, Rao has been working with several academic institutions around the world, from rural schools to the Royal Academy of Engineering, to hold ‘innovation sessions’ for other young people looking to come up with their own inventions. So far, she’s already mentored over 30,000 students, creating a ‘community of innovators’ ready to take over from the older generations and solve some of the most important issues facing the world today.
It’s pretty clear that Rao isn’t your average 15-year-old teenager, but her work is helping to inspire thousands of other kids – and adults – to believe that they can change the world, too.
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