Gitanjali Rao (scientist)

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Gitanjali Rao
Gitanjali Headshot.jpg
Born (2005-11-19) November 19, 2005 (age 16)
Lone Tree, Colorado, United States
Known forWater lead-level measuring device (2018)
AwardsTIME's 2020 Kid of the Year

Gitanjali Rao (born 19 November 2005) is an American inventor, author, scientist and engineer, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) promoter. She won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in 2017 and was recognized on Forbes 30 Under 30 for her innovations.[1] Rao was named TIME Top young innovator in 2020 for her innovations and "innovation workshops" she conducts across the globe[2] and, on December 4, 2020, was featured on the cover of TIME magazine and named their first "Kid of the Year".[3][4]

Early life[edit]

She has Indian heritage and enjoys Indian classical music. [5] She currently lives in Lone Tree, Colorado where she attends STEM School Highlands Ranch.[6] Rao has expressed interest in studying genetics and epidemiology.[7][8][9] She is conducting research at the University of Colorado.[10][11]


Rao was first influenced by a science kit her uncle gave to her when she was 4 years old.[12] When she was 10, Rao heard about the Flint water crisis while watching the news[13][14][15] and became interested in ways to measure the lead content in water. This led to her developing a device called Tethys based on carbon nanotubes that could send water quality information via Bluetooth.[16] Rao collaborated with a research scientist at 3M.[17] In 2017, Rao won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was awarded $25,000 for her invention, Tethys.[6][18][19] Tethys contains a 9-volt battery, a lead sensing unit, a bluetooth extension and a processor.[6] It uses carbon nanotubes, whose resistance changes in the presence of lead.[20] She learned about the carbon nanotubes while reading the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website.[21] She plans to work with scientists and medical professionals to investigate the potential of Tethys as a viable method.[22] She presented her idea at the 2018 MAKERS conference and raised a further $25,000.[23] As of January 2019, she was working with the Denver water facility and hopes to have a prototype in the next two years.[24]

She is a 3-time TEDx Speaker.[25][26][27] In September 2018, Rao was awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency President's Environmental Youth Award.[28]

Rao was also awarded the Top “Health” Pillar Prize for the TCS Ignite Innovation Student Challenge in May 2019 for developing a diagnostic tool called Epione based on advances in genetic engineering for early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction.[29][30]

Rao developed an app named "Kindly" that uses artificial intelligence that can detect cyberbullying at an early stage.[30]

She is currently a member of Scouts and has enrolled in the Scouting STEM program in the United States,[31] and is working on getting her pilot's license.[32]

In 2020, Rao became the first person to receive TIME magazine's Kid of the Year designation.[33]


  1. ^ "Gitanjali Rao". Forbes.
  2. ^ "Seven Young Inventors Who See a Better Way". Time.
  3. ^ "Meet TIME's First-Ever Kid of the Year". Time. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  4. ^ Chappell, Bill (December 3, 2020). "'Time' Names Its Kid Of The Year: Water-Testing Scientist Gitanjali Rao". NPR. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  5. ^ Great Big Story (2018-03-08), This 12-Year-Old Scientist is Taking On Flint's Water Crisis, retrieved 2018-10-23
  6. ^ a b c Prisco, Jacopo (February 15, 2018). "Gitanjali Rao wants to make polluted water safer with lead detection system". CNN. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  7. ^ "Lone Tree girl named America's Top Young Scientist after inventing lead-detecting sensor to help residents of Flint, Mich". The Denver Post. 2017-11-23. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  8. ^ "What teachers can learn from America's top young scientist, 12-year-old Gitanjali Rao". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  9. ^ "Indian American Gitanjali Rao is the winner of 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge". The American Bazaar. 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  10. ^ The Female Quotient (2018-04-10), Young Scientist Gitanjali Rao On Closing the Wage Gap, retrieved 2018-10-23
  11. ^ "Gitanjali Rao - Profile". Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  12. ^ Madeline Sofia (2021-01-11). "This Teen Scientist Is TIME's First-Ever 'Kid Of The Year'". Short Wave (Podcast). NPR. Retrieved 2021-01-14.
  13. ^ "Finding Solutions to Real Problems: An Interview With Gitanjali Rao - Rookie". Rookie. 2018-01-11. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  14. ^ Ryan, Lisa. "11-Year-Old Creates Lead-Detection Device to Help With Flint Water Crisis". The Cut. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  15. ^ "Testing the Waters". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  16. ^ The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge (2017-07-18), 2017 National Finalist: Gitanjali Rao, retrieved 2018-10-23
  17. ^ "Dr. Kathleen Shafer | Young Scientist Lab". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  18. ^ "The 12 year old inventor protecting your drinking water". BBC. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  19. ^ "Video: Meet the 11-year-old who developed a new method of testing for lead in water". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  20. ^ Great Big Story (2018-03-08), This 12-Year-Old Scientist is Taking On Flint's Water Crisis, retrieved 2018-10-23
  21. ^ "This 11-Year-Old Invented A Cheap Test Kit For Lead In Drinking Water". Fast Company. 2017-07-13. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  22. ^ Thorpe, JR. "This 11-Year-Old Girl Just Made An Amazing Innovation In How We Test For Lead, & Proved How Much Girls Rule In The Process". Bustle. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  23. ^ "Gitanjali Rao, America's Top Young Scientist of 2017, Nabs Another $25,000 For Lead-Detection Invention". Archived from the original on 2018-10-24. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  24. ^ "13-Year-Old Gitanjali Rao's Lead Detecting Invention Lands Her On Forbes' '30 Under 30'". CPR. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  25. ^ TEDx Talks (2018-06-07), A 12-year-old inventor's device for detecting lead in water | Gitanjali Rao | TEDxNashville, retrieved 2018-10-23
  26. ^ "A device to detect lead in water by a 13-year-old innovator | Gitanjali Rao | TEDxGateway - YouTube".
  27. ^ "A Young Scientist's Guide to Problem Solving and Innovation | Gitanjali Rao | TEDxChennai - YouTube".
  28. ^ "Girl Genius: This 12-year-old just invented device to detect lead in water". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  29. ^ "STEM School student receives another national award for an invention". FOX31 Denver. 2019-07-23. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  30. ^ a b Yancey-Bragg, N’dea (December 3, 2020). "TIME names 15-year-old scientist and inventor Gitanjali Rao its first Kid of the Year". USA Today. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  31. ^ "Living the Scout Life - STEM Scout Named Time's First-Ever Kid of the Year". Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  32. ^ Mosley, Tonya (December 9, 2020). "15-Year-Old Innovator Named 'Kid of the Year' By Time Magazine". WBUR Here and Now. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  33. ^ "Meet TIME's First-Ever Kid of the Year". Time.