- The teen strives to impact students, teachers, and educators to adapt to a new learning style.
Fifteen-year-old scientist and inventor, Gitanjali Rao, who was named Time magazine’s first “Kid of the Year” for inventing new technologies across a range of fields, has a new book, set to release on March 16. Rao, from Lone Tree, Colorado, has penned “A Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM,” an interactive experience to help immerse students in the process of innovation. Some of Rao’s inventions for which she was recognized by Time include a device that can identify lead in drinking water, and an app and Chrome extension that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying.
Recognized by ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” and “Marvel’s Hero Project,” the accomplished author builds on her experiences and provides a prescriptive step-by-step process for identifying problems and developing solutions. To do this Rao came up with the idea of tackling parasites in water “by using genetically engineered microbes and turning them into biochemical sensors.” Published by Simon and Schuster, “A Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM,” strives to impact students, teachers, and educators to adapt to a new learning style—one that can have a positive impact on society.
Speaking to Time, Rao said, “I am a very curious person. I love learning about everything as everything is of interest to me.” Rao, who is resilient by nature, told Time that “sometimes her ideas don’t work, but she never gives up and continues to try new ideas until something works.” Rao, through the book, wants to encourage other students not to give up either as “everyone can solve problems.” Talking to actor and humanitarian Angelina Jolie on behalf of Time, Rao, who attends STEM School Highlands Ranch, Colorado, said she hoped she could inspire others to dream up ideas to “solve the world’s problems.”
Rao was also recognized as ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ and received an EPA Presidential award for inventing her device “Tethys” — an early lead detection tool. She is also the inventor of “Epione”—a device for early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction using genetic engineering, and “Kindly” —an anti-cyberbullying service using AI and Natural Language processing.
She was honored as Forbes “30 Under 30 in Science” in 2019 and TIME’s “Top Young Innovator” for her innovations and STEM workshops she conducts globally, which has inspired 30,000 students in the last two years across three continents. In her sessions, she shares her own process of innovation that can be used by students all over the world. She is an experienced TED speaker and often presents in global and corporate forums on innovation and the importance of STEM.
Rao has won awards for her writing in national and international contests. She published her first book at age of 9, called, “Baby Brother Wonders.” The self-illustrated book, based on the story that won second prize in the PBS national writing contest, described the world through her younger brother’s point of view. Rao has also won first place in the International Aviation Art Contest for the last four years at the state level and her art is displayed in Nashville International Airport. She was a “TIME for Kids” Kid reporter for the 2017-2018 school year. Apart from writing and art, Rao is part of the STEM Scouts and 4-H club.
A humanitarian at heart, Rao shares her talent of playing piano in local assisted living centers and organizes performances with a group of volunteers. She has received numerous awards for her piano performance. She received the Nicholas Green Distinguished Award and Kohl’s National scholarship for her community service. Rao has also been an active volunteer for an organization called Children’s Kindness Network that spreads an anti-bullying message, and promotes the importance of kindness in all of us. She conducts workshops in elementary schools and hopes to educate children about kindness when they are still young.
Some of Rao’s hobbies include playing the piano, Indian classical dancing and singing, swimming, fencing, and baking. She has been playing classical music for almost 8 years, starting to learn Carnatic music and Kathak since the age of five. She also recently learned how to play the bass guitar and the clarinet.
However, Rao, who’s name ‘Gitanjali’, meaning ‘offering of songs and melodies’ comes from the book of poems by the same name, penned by Noble prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, of whom her parents are a fan, is sad that due to the recent virus, her gurus and she had to hit the pause button on her dance lessons. “But I hope to get back to it soon enough,” she tells The Indian Express. After COVID-19 comes to a close, thanks to the roll out of vaccines, the intrepid scientist Rao tells The Indian Express that she hopes to look at ways to prevent future pandemics.