xi's moments
Home | People

Time for recognition as teen inventor is named 'Kid of the Year'

Updated: 2020-12-09 09:35

Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old Colorado high school student, has been named Time magazine's first-ever "Kid of the Year". [Photo/Agencies]

LONE TREE, Colorado-A 15-year-old Colorado high school student and young scientist who has used artificial intelligence and created apps to tackle contaminated drinking water, cyberbullying, opioid addiction and other social problems has been named Time magazine's first-ever "Kid of the Year".

Gitanjali Rao, a sophomore at STEM School Highlands Ranch in suburban Denver who lives in the city of Lone Tree, was selected from more than 5,000 nominees in a process that culminated with a finalists' committee of children, Time for Kids reporters and comedian Trevor Noah.

Rao said in a Zoom interview from her home on Friday that the prize is "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."

Time says in a statement, along with Nickelodeon, it wanted to recognize "the rising leaders of America's youngest generation" in making the award.

For 92 years, Time has presented a "Person of the Year", and the youngest ever was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was 16 when she graced the magazine's cover last year.

Time says Rao stood out for creating a global community of young innovators and inspiring them to pursue their goals. Rao insists that starting out small doesn't matter, as long as you're passionate about it.

Rao's sense of invention started early. At age 12, she developed a portable device to detect lead in water. She has created a device called the Epione that diagnoses prescription opioid addiction at an early stage.

She has also devised an app called Kindly that uses artificial intelligence to help prevent cyberbullying. It allows teens to type in a word or phrase to find out if the words they're using are bullying and lets them decide to edit what they're sending or to proceed.

"And currently, I'm looking back at water, looking at moving things like parasitic compounds in water and how we can detect for that," Rao says after a day's remote schooling.

She told actress, activist and Time contributing editor Angelina Jolie in a Zoom interview that her science pursuits started early as a way to improve social conditions. The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, inspired her work to develop a way to detect contaminants and send those results to a mobile phone.

"I was 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?'" Rao told Jolie.

She said that work "is going to be in our generation's hands pretty soon. So if no one else is going to do it, I'm going to do it".

The sensor technology involves molecules of carbon atoms that can detect chemical changes, including chemicals in water.

Rao has partnered with rural schools, museums, and science, technology, engineering and math organizations, and other institutions to run innovation workshops for thousands of other students.

In a world where science is increasingly questioned or challenged, Rao insists that its pursuit is an essential act of kindness, the best way that a younger generation can better the world. Science and technology are being employed as never before to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, global warming and a host of other issues, she notes.

"We have science in everything we're involved in, and I think that's the biggest thing to put out there, that science is cool, innovating is cool, and anybody can be an innovator," Rao says.

"Anybody can do science."


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349