Indian-American origin Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old girl who invented a mobile device to test for lead in drinking water, has been named as the Kid of the Year 2020 by Times magazine. The Colorado-based teenager was chosen for her work towards developing technology to detect drinking water contamination, opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
This is the first time that Time has announced 'Kid of the Year'. Announcing the honor, Time said: "The world belongs to those who shape it. And however uncertain that world may feel at a given moment, the reassuring reality seems to be that each new generation produces more of what these kids have already achieved: positive impact, in all sizes."
'We Have to Solve Problems We Did Not Create'- Rao
Rao, who made it to the Time's cover, was chosen from among 5,000 nominees. She had also featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list last year. Rao, while being interviewed by actor Angelina Jolie, spoke about her dream of creating a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over.
Stating that her generation is facing many problems which were never seen before, Rao said: "But then at the same time, we're facing old problems that still exist. Like, we're sitting here in the middle of a new global pandemic, and we're also like still facing human-rights issues. There are problems that we did not create but that we now have to solve, like climate change and cyberbullying with the introduction of technology."
"I think more than anything right now, we just need to find that one thing we're passionate about and solve it. Even if it's something as small as, I want to find an easy way to pick up litter. Everything makes a difference. Don't feel pressured to come up with something big," she said.
Rao Working on Device to Detect Bio-Contaminants in Water
Rao had won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was awarded $25,000 for her lead detection device named Tethys. The device, which runs on a 9-volt battery, and comes loaded a lead sensing unit, a bluetooth extension and a processor, detects lead in water.
As a fight against cyberbullying, Rao developed Kindly, a phone and Web tool, which uses artificial intelligence technology to detect possible early signs of 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. The goal is not to punish. 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", Rao told the magazine.
Rao, who is currently working on a device to help detect bio-contaminants like parasites in water, said that her goal has really shifted not only from creating her 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," she told Jolie.