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Meet Gitanjali Rao, Young Scientist & TIME’s Magazine First-ever Kid Of The Year

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TIME’s Magazine has unveiled its first-ever “Kid of The Year”, fifteen-year-old Gitanjali Rao.

Gitanjali Rao

The young scientist has been recognised for “using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying, and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems all over the world.”

 

Speaking on the feature in an interview Gitanjali Rao said it’s “nothing that I could have ever imagined. And I’m so grateful and just so excited that we’re really taking a look at the upcoming generation and our generation, since the future is in our hands.”

On how she knew science was her passion, Gitanjali Rao said shared with Anjelina Jolie that;

“I feel like there wasn’t really one specific aha moment. I was always someone who wanted to put a smile on someone’s face. That was my everyday goal, just to make someone happy. And it soon turned into, How can we bring positivity and community to the place we live? And then when I was in second or third grade, I started thinking about how can we use science and technology to create social change. I was like 10 when I told my parents that I wanted to research carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water quality research lab, and my mom was like, “A what?”

On her latest innovations which help prevent cyberbullying:

“It’s a service called Kindly. There’s an app and a Chrome ­extension—which is able to detect cyberbullying at an early stage, based on artificial-­intelligence technology. I started to hard-code in some words that could be considered bullying. And then, my engine took those words and identified words that are similar. 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.”

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On her “innovation sessions” Gitanjali Rao says:

“I just looked at what worked for me and decided to share it with everyone else. So I made this process that I use for everything now: it’s observe, brainstorm, research, build, communicate. It started with a simple presentation and lesson plans, and then I started adding labs and contests that students could do. Now I’ve partnered with rural schools, girls in STEM organizations, museums all across the world, and bigger organizations like Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology group and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London to run innovation workshops.”

What she’s working on now:

“I’m currently working on an easy way to help detect bio-contaminants in water—things like parasites. I’m hoping for this to be something that’s inexpensive and accurate so that people in third-world countries can identify what’s in their water.”

 

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