Gitanjali Rao (15), Indian-American First-Ever TIME “Kid Of The Year”

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New York: A brilliant young scientist and inventor Indian-American Gitanjali Rao (15) 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 cyber bullying.

The time said that “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.”

Gitanjali Rao was selected from a field of more than 5,000 nominees as TIME’s first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’. She was interviewed by actor and activist Angelina Jolie for the TIME special. “Observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate,” Gitanjali Rao told about her process during a virtual talk with Ms Jolie from her home in Colorado.

Gitanjali Rao spoke about her “astonishing work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyber bullying, and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over. The time also said “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”.

“If I can do it,” she said in the interview, “anybody can do it.” Gitanjali Rao said her generation is facing many problems that they have never seen before. “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 cyber bullying with the introduction of technology,” she said.

“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 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. So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it,” said Gitanjali. 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. She said she was 10 when she 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.”

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