Gitanjali Rao – TIME Magazine’s Kid Of The Year Is An Inspiration To Us!

American-Indian Gitanjali Rao is TIME Magazine's first-ever Kid Of The Year. Here's what we need to know about the fifteen-year-old!

American-Indian Gitanjali Rao is TIME Magazine’s first-ever Kid Of The Year. Here’s what we need to know about the fifteen-year-old!

Fifteen-year-old American-Indian Gitanjali Rao was named by TIME magazine the first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’ for using technology to address issues ranging from cyber-bullying to water contamination. She was selected from a field of 5,000 American children aged between 8 to 16.

In an interview with Angelina Jolie, she pointed out that her motivation behind her work has always been to put a smile on people’s faces. In second or third grade, this transformed into a resolution to use technology for creating social change.

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Why do we need to know about Gitanjali Rao?

“I was like 10 when I told my parents that I wanted to research carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water quality research lab,” Gitanjali said during the Zoom interview. The interview is up on TIME Magazine’s YouTube channel.

This technology would help detect chemicals in the water. She has invented a small, mobile device, named Tethys, that detects lead and bio-contaminants in drinking water. It is inexpensive and she hopes it would help people in the third world countries.

Gitanjali also created an app and a Chrome extension named Kindly. Based on artificial intelligence technology, it detects cyber-bullying. It gives teenagers the chance to introspect and know what to do the next time around. This works as an opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes, not punish.

She shared how she believes that one ought to choose the one thing that they are passionate about to work on. And no matter how small it may be, it does make a difference. Currently, she is passionate about the study of genetics and is working on “a product that helps to diagnose prescription-­opioid addiction at an early stage based on protein production of the mu-opioid receptor gene,” the website reported.

Gitanjali has a process that she uses for her work, ‘It’s an observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate’ process. She shared this with the 30,000 students she mentored by collaborating with rural schools, girls in STEM organisations, the Royal Academy of Engineering in London and other institutions.

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A young, brown girl in STEM

The preceding generations have left this generation with global climate change, continuing mass-scale human rights violations among others to deal with. At a time like this, the huge contributions of young people like Gitanjali go a long way towards promoting and adopting sustainable development techniques.

Particularly for Gitanjali, her gender and skin colour is also extremely significant. As Gitanjali also shares, in the popular imagination, a scientist is invariably an older white man. This lack of representation takes away from women of colour a lot of opportunities and makes their path even harder.

Gitanjali admits that it is not easy when one does see anyone else like them in their field. Her aim now is not only to make devices but to inspire others like her to do the same, as well. So, she puts forward the message, “If I can do it, you can do it and anyone can do it.”

Picture credits: TIME Magazine’s Twitter handle

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A postgraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...

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