Meet Time Magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Gitanjali Rao is a generous inventor and scientist who uses technology as a catalyst for social change. A 15-year-old student of STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, USA, Gitanjali has tackled issues like water contamination, cyberbullying, and opioid addiction using simple and innovative techniques. Her work has been recognised by Discovery Education and UNICEF. She is also Time Magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year.
Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Gitanjali has been selected from a field of more than 5,000 nominees as TIME’s first ever Kid of the Year.
How did it all begin?
A keen observer, Gitanjali is always looking for problems that she can help solve. She has a five-step process; she observes, finds issues impacting her community, hones down on a problem to solve, ideates, and finally starts her research. “I start building a simple solution by breaking down different parts of the problem and then begin talking about it. This helps other organizations or universities with resources to build on it,” she says.
One of her inventions is an app called Kindly, which helps detect cyberbullying from an early stage. It’s an app and a Google Chrome extension, which lets anyone know if what they’re saying can be construed as bullying.
What was her biggest recognition and how did it feel?
Gitanjali won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in 2017. “The joy of winning is still a dream come true; however, after these years, what stayed with me is the lifelong friendships from the challenge and the mentorship I received, which is invaluable,” she adds.
What keeps her going?
We are all going through a pandemic, and I can say that this may not be the last one. We are fortunate to have advances in technology and science, so it’s our best interest to predict these and be ready for the unknowns. The encouragement and support I receive from my teachers, mentors, and parents keep me motivated consistently.”
What’s brewing in her future?
There’s a lot of things in the works for Gitanjali. She is currently trying to find an easy and inexpensive way to detect bio-contaminants in water so that third-world countries can use them. She is also writing a book to guide young students preparing for a future in STEM. Gitanjali wants to start an inclusive innovation movement in schools all over the world. She says, “Things that I have taken for granted, such as clean drinking water, basic school necessities such as books, internet, and qualified teachers, are not readily available everywhere.” And so, she wants to work towards creating a people-centered approach to invention and problem-solving!
How does she unwind?
In her free time, Gitanjali plays the piano, fences, bakes, and plays board games with her brother. Also, she has received a scholarship to learn to fly a glider!
Listen to Gitanjali talk about her interests.
You can always get to know more about Gitanjali on gitanjalirao.net