Like many kids her age, 15-year-old Gitanjali Rao of Lone Tree, Colorado, has been doing a lot of baking during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but that’s about where the similarities end.
This month, the Indian-American teen is gracing the cover of Time magazine as their first “Kid of the Year” for all the right reasons!
A sophomore at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver, Gitanjali is being recognized as an inventor whose intelligence and skills extend far beyond her years.
the #1 good news email read by 500K+ people.
She was selected from a highly competitive group of 5,000 nominees between 8 and 16 years old because of her inventions that are solving problems around the world. So far, she has found solutions to clean drinking water, fight opioid addictions, and prevent cyberbullying.
During a Zoom interview with actress and philanthropist Angelina Jolie, Gitanjali discussed her impressive contributions to science — and her belief that anyone can make a difference if they start small! She explained that the ideas for her inventions come from observing problems and dreaming up a way to fix them.
“Observe, brainstorm, research, build, and communicate,” the teen said of her process. It’s a method she has been employing since she was in elementary school! She was just 12 years old when she learned about contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and she set out to create an inexpensive solution that would benefit even the poorest areas. The result was a portable device that detects lead and other contaminants in water and instantly sends the data to a mobile phone!
She has also developed an app and Chrome extension called Kindly, which detects and stops cyberbullying using artificial intelligence. “The goal is not to punish,” she explained. “As a teenager, I know teenagers tend to lash out sometimes. Instead, it gives you the chance to rethink what you’re saying so that you know what to do next time around.”
The app is in line with her mission, which began as a simple desire to “put a smile on someone’s face.” As she got older, she began to see science and technology as a way to bring about lasting social change.
Gitanjali has made it her mission to inspire other young innovators to do their part! In fact, she hopes to create a global community that is laser-focused on solving the unique problems her generation faces.
“I recently hit my goal of 30,000 students who I have mentored, which is super exciting,” she said. “It’s like creating a community of innovators. I really hope the work that all of these kids are doing identifies innovation as a necessity and not something that’s a choice anymore. I hope I can be a small part of that.”
The fact that she isn’t what people expect is something she sees as a positive. “I don’t look like your typical scientist,” she explained.
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. 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.
It’s hard to believe this accomplished young woman has already made discoveries that will benefit people around the world! Isn’t it wonderful to know that future generations will have innovators like Gitanjali leading the way?
Learn more about Time’s first “Kid of the Year” in the video below, and be sure to share this story to make someone smile.
Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.