She represents the future of our world. The 15-year-old Gitanjali Rao has been making headlines as TIME magazine’s Kid of the Year for her extraordinary work in addressing problems that challenge humanity and using technology to tackle issues like contaminated drinking water, opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
“I think that being a scientist is like being a superhero, because superheroes save people, and want to do what is best for their society – scientists do the same exact thing”
A student at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado’s Denver, a fencer, an author, a speaker, a community volunteer, a science enthusiast & STEM promoter and a board member at the Children’s Kindness Network, and the list goes on. Selected from more than 5,000 nominees as Time’s first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’, the inspiring story of this young innovator & scientist can’t be stringed down in few sentences.
On the contrary, she thinks herself as a regular 15-year-old girl who loves Indian classical music & dance, singing, swimming, fencing, and baking. “I spent more time doing 15-year-old things during the quarantine. I bake an ungodly amount. It’s not good, but it’s baking. And, like, it’s science too,” she said, speaking to actor, activist and Time contributing editor Angelina Jolie in a Zoom interview.
Let’s have a look at Gitanjali’s inspiring journey, her benchmarks and the mission of creating a global community of young innovators to solve prevailing problems by using science as a catalyst for social change.
Tethys- her innovation to detect lead contamination in water
Flint’s drinking water crisis, where the city’s water was contaminated with lead, inspired Gitanjali to develop a solution that could detect contaminations in water and send those results to a mobile phone. A seventh-grader at STEM School Highlands Ranch at the time, she developed the device in five months.
Tethys works on sensor technology and the molecules of carbon atoms that are capable of detecting chemical changes, including chemicals in the water. Gitanjali’s lead-detection device Tethys has won ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ award
Epione– Gitanjali’s contribution to curbing opioid addiction
She has devised Epione which diagnoses prescription opioid addiction at an early stage, accompanied by a mobile application.
Kindly App- Her efforts in fighting cyberbullying
The kindly app is an Artificial Intelligence-based solution that alerts on cyberbullying content. The app lets teens type in any word/phrase to find out if the words they are using are bullying and lets them decide to edit what they are sending or to proceed.
As an author
Gitanjali’s A Young Innovative Guide to STEM got published in March, this year by Simon and Schuster to influence & inspire more like minds to approach today’s problems creatively with innovative solutions.
Gitanjali’s other work, a self-published book- Baby Brother Wonders reflects on the curiosity of her younger brother.
Marvel Hero, Genius Gitanjali
Gitanjali was featured in the web series Marvel’s Hero Project as ‘Genius Gitanjali’ to recognize her valuable contributions to the society.
Awards & Recognitions
- Featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 list
- Has received the EPA Presidential Award, George Stephenson Innovation Award 2020, Kumon 2019 Student Inspirational Award, TCS Ignite Innovation Top Health Pillar Award among others
Gitanjali has partnered with rural schools; museums; science, technology, engineering and mathematics organizations; and other institutions to run innovation workshops for thousands of other students.
Gitanjali’s love for baking is wholesale
“Actually, I spend more time doing 15-year-old things during the quarantine. I bake an ungodly amount. It’s not good, but it’s baking. And, like, it’s science too,” she replies when asked if she does things that kids her age do.
A pure, lively soul, Gitanjali loves playing the piano for the elderly people at assisted living centers and organizes performances with other volunteers as well.
More power to the young innovator & Kid of the Year!