- Selected from a field of more than 5,000, ‘2020 Kid of the Year’, Gitanjali Rao will be featured on the Dec. 14 cover of Time.
Time, Time for Kids and Nickelodeon announced 15-year-old scientist and inventor Indian American Gitanjali Rao from Colorado as the first ever, ‘Kid of the Year’ (2020), for her innovations and “innovation workshops”, which she conducts across the globe. The multiplatform initiative is recognizing extraordinary young leaders who are making a positive impact in their communities.
Selected from a field of more than 5,000, ‘2020 Kid of the Year’, Gitanjali Rao will be featured on the Dec. 14 cover of TIME, available on newsstands from Friday, Dec. 4, by the magazine which is known for featuring a profile of a person, or a group that has done the most to influence the world in the previous year.
Rao considers herself a “problem solver” who has worked on issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to cyberbullying, with an anti-cyberbullying app and Chrome extension called Kindly. It spots and prevents cyber-bullying messages.
A “very curious person” who “finds everything in school super fun”, a self-assured Rao, in her video on the TIME website says, “she cannot see a world filled with kindness, without science and technology involved”.
In an interview with award-winning actress Angelina Jolie for Time, Rao spoke about her work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying: “I don’t look like your typical scientist. Everything I see on TV is that it’s an older, usually white man as a scientist. It’s weird to me that it was almost like people had assigned roles, regarding their gender, their age, the color of their skin. My goal has really shifted not only from creating my 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.”
Rao is an inventor, author, and a STEM promoter who believes you are never too young to create technology to help people and save lives.
At the age of 11, Rao learned about the Flint water crisis. The drinking water source for the city of Flint was contaminated after authorities changed the source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River, leading to a massive spike in lead content in the water.
Rao developed a device based on carbon nanotubes to measure the content of lead in water in 2017. The device was equipped to send contamination information using Bluetooth. She named her device Tethys. Named after the Greek Goddess for fresh water, it allows a sensor linked to a mobile app to give an accurate, almost immediate analysis. She even got a chance to show her experiment on the TED platform in front of Shah Rukh Khan (TED Talks, India Nayi Baat, 2019), where she left Bollywood Superstar completely wonder struck.
Impressed by the young girls’ inventions, Shah Rukh said on national television, “It is an amazing invention for a 13-year-old, when I was at that age, my parents used to tell me to latch the door for safety. With such great minds like Gitanjali, our future is very safe in your hands.”
In September 2018, she was awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency President’s Environmental Youth Award.
Rao also won a prize in the TCS Ignite Innovation Student Challenge for inventing Epione, a tool that diagnoses early-stage prescription opioid addiction. She has also previously been featured in Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30’ list for her innovations. She also won the Discovery Education 3M Scientist Challenge at the age of 11.
Rao wants to study genetics and epidemiology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
‘Kid of the Year’ Gitanjali Rao, alongside the other top finalists and honorees, will be recognized during the first-ever‘Kid of the Year’ TV special, hosted by Trevor Noah. The special will simulcast across Nickelodeon, TV Land, TeenNick and Nicktoons on Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT). It will also air on Comedy Central on Friday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT) and CBS Television Network on Monday, Dec. 21, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
The ‘Kid of the Year’ TV special will feature guest stars from entertainment, sports and pop culture to help surprise the top five ‘Kid of the Year’ honorees and celebrate their work. Celebrity guests making appearances throughout the special include Kristen Bell, Simone Biles, Dixie D’Amelio, Billie Eilish, Rob Gronkowski, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Hemsworth, Ken Jeong, Angelina Jolie, Chloe Kim, Brie Larson, Zachary Levi, Russell Westbrook and Malala Yousafzai, among others.
Each of the top five Kid of the Year honorees will receive a cash prize from Nickelodeon and have the opportunity to serve as a Kid Reporter for TIME for Kids with exclusive access to a Nickelodeon event.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.