Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old scientist, and inventor is TIME Magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year.
The teen’s love for science began at the early age of 10 when she discovered carbon nanotube sensor technology, which uses molecules to detect chemicals in water, and her passion grew from there.
Aise from being the Kid of the Year, Roa was also listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for developing a mobile device in 2017 to test for lead in drinking water – an innovation Rao made to address the Flint, Michigan water crisis.
The 15-year-old’s most recent project is an app called Kindly that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying online at an early stage.
Roa was chosen from a group of more than 5,000 nominees, but judges were amazed by her use of technology to fight a number of social issues ranging from contaminated water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
“It’s weird to me that it was almost like people had assigned roles, regarding like their gender, their age, the color of their skin,” Roa said. “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,” she added. “So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it.”
Rao attends STEM School Highlands Ranch and wishes to study genetics and epidemiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Rao is also a three-time TEDx speaker and in 2018, she was awarded the US Environmental Protection Agency President’s Environmental Youth Award.