A young scientist and inventor, 15-year-old Gitanjali Rao, an American of Indian origin has been named by TIME magazine as the first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’ for her “astonishing work” using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
“The world belongs to those who shape it. And however uncertain that world may feel at a given moment, the reassuring reality seems to be that each new generation produces more of what these kids have already achieved: positive impact, in all sizes,” TIME said.
Gitanjali was selected from a field of more than 5000 nominees as TIME’s first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’.
When Actor and activist Angelina Jolie who interviewed Gitanjali on a virtual session asked her about the process the teenage inventor said, “Observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate.” She also said, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
She spoke about her “astonishing work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying, and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over.”
“Even over video chat, her brilliant mind and generous spirit shone through, along with her inspiring message to other young people: don’t try to fix every problem, just focus on one that excites you,” Time commented.
While talking about the problem faced by millennials Ms Rao said, “But then at the same time, we’re facing old problems that still exist. Like, we’re sitting here in the middle of a new global pandemic, and we’re also like still facing human-rights issues. There are problems that we did not create but that we now have to solve, like climate change and cyberbullying with the introduction of technology.”
“I think more than anything right now, we just need to find that one thing we’re passionate about and solve it. Even if it’s something as small as, I want to find an easy way to pick up litter. Everything makes a difference. Don’t feel pressured to come up with something big,” she added.
When asked about, when did she know that science was her passion, she explained, she always wanted to put a smile on someone’s face. “That was my everyday goal, just to make someone happy. And it soon turned into, How can we bring positivity and community to the place we live?”
Ms Rao said that she doesn’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 like their gender, their age, the colour 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,” she said.
When she was in second or third grade, she started thinking about how she can use science and technology to create social change and when she was 10, told her parents that she wanted to research carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water Quality Research Lab.
When asked by Ms Jolie if she does things that kids her age do, she said, “Actually I spend more time doing 15-year-old things during the quarantine. I bake an ungodly amount. It’s not good, but it’s baking. And, like, it’s science too.”