Gitanjali Rao from Colorado, won America's Top Young Scientist 2017, for her innovative gadget to test for contaminants like lead in drinking water. She’s continuing her research to try to bring her test to market, while also working on cyberbullying and opoid addiction. She has also mentored 30,000 students, encouraging them to use science and technology to create social change, too. She has just been named TIME magazine’s first ever “Kid of the Year”.
Gitanjali was first inspired to work on testing drinking water after learning about the water pollution scandal in Flint, Michigan. In April, 2014, the city started using water from the River Flint for the municipal water-distribution system. The city’s residents immediately started complaining about the quality of the water, and the skin rashes and other health problems it developed. The city insisted the water source was clean, but it was eventually proved that it may have met water standards when it left the river, but it didn’t by the time it came out of the taps. It corroded the lead pipes many homes had, and so lead contaminated the water, potentially causing developmental problems in children.
Residents had no easy way to test their home’s water, so Gitanjali worked on a system to use carbon nanotubes to test water and give an instant result.
Gitanjali is also now working on an app to help discourage cyberbullying.
Leaders of the Future
TIME magazine has named a Person of the Year for all its long history (actually, it was Man of the Year till 1999). The magazine named Greta Thunberg as last year's Person on the Year, the youngest ever, and says this inspired the new Kid of the Year award.
Part of the reason Gitanjali Rao is so active in mentoring other students is that she wants to combat the stereotyped image of scientists being older men and usually white. As an Indian American girl, she says, "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."
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