The Innovative Girl Who Changes the World

Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old from Colorado, US, has been named Time Magazine's Kid of the Year for 2020.

The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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Time Magazine just named Gitanjali Rao its first-ever Kid of the Year. Rao was selected from a pool of 5000 candidates between 8 and 16 years old across the US focused on making a positive impact.

Time says she's been using technology to deal with contaminated drinking water, opioid addiction, and cyberbullying. Her goal is to bring young innovators from around the world together to solve problems.

Between Rao's proposals, she created Kindly, an artificial intelligence-based service to detect and prevent cyberbullying at an early stage. Within that category, it uses the latest developments in machine learning and natural language understanding and processing to identify words or phrases that could be considered bullying.

Kindly attempts to be non-punitive, meaning that instead of immediately going to punishment, it allows students to rephrase or reward what they want to say.

Regarding how this young scientist got on this path, Rao told MSNBC, "There's always been something about innovating and just learning that's been so exciting." She added, "whether that's learning about the latest technology or myself. I love learning new things."

Also read: Does Managing Emotions Increase Self-esteem in Children?

The scientist told the source that she started to use science and technology as a catalyst for social change. "I can't see a world filled with positivity without science and tech involved," she stressed.

On the other hand, Rao's water purification invention resulted from what was happening in Flint, Michigan, with their crisis with lead and contaminants in the water. Her device includes a core device and a disposable cartridge with the carbon nanotube sensor.

To use it, the person needs to dip the disposable cartridge into the water they want to test. Then, pull out their phone, open up the Tethys application and connect over Bluetooth to get the results of safe, slightly contaminated, or critical lead levels in the water.

Time Magazine cited Rao's ability to apply scientific ideas to real-world problems and her desire to motivate other kids to take up their causes. Kid of the Year is the result of a partnership between Time Magazine and Nickelodeon.

Rao was recognized last year in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named America's Top Young Scientist when she was in the seventh grade.

In her interview with Time Magazine, Rao commented on being a role model of Indian descent "Everything I see on TV is that it's an older, usually white man as a scientist… it's not easy when you don't see anyone else like you. If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it."

A committee made the final choice of kids along with renowned comedian Trevor Noah. Each finalist will receive a cash prize from Nickelodeon's parent company ViacomCBS and appear in a TV special alongside Trevor Noah.

This year's finalists were responsible for a range of positive work, including guiding discussions about racial prejudice through skin color crayons, growing food for those in need, and developing equipment for children with special needs. However, Rao's work stood out and was chosen.

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