Colorado 15-year-old scientist is Time's first Kid of the Year

Posted Dec 4, 2020 by Karen Graham
Time Magazine has named it's very first "Kid of the Year" to grace the cover of its latest issue, and she is 15-year-old Gitanjali Rao, of Lone Tree, Colorado.
Exceptional leadership is what made the ultimate Kid of the Year  15-year-old scientist and inventor...
Exceptional leadership is what made the ultimate Kid of the Year, 15-year-old scientist and inventor Gitanjali Rao, stand out.
Rao was chosen from a field of 5,000 US-based nominees, aged eight to 16, which was whittled down to five finalists by a committee of young people alongside comedian and TV presenter Trevor Noah, according to The Guardian.
She exhibited “exceptional leadership” in finding solutions to societal problems such as cyberbullying and water contamination, according to a brief description of the selection process from TIME.
The five finalists have grown food for those in crisis, designed better toys for kids with disabilities, and started new conversations about racial justice. They include Tyler Gordon, 14, from San Jose, Calif.; Jordan Reeves, 14, from Columbia, Mo.; Bellen Woodard, 10, from Leesburg, Va.; and Ian McKenna, 16, from Austin.
But Rao's leadership qualities are what made her stand out among the finalists. As a scientist and inventor, Rao researches scientific tools such as artificial intelligence and carbon nanotube sensor technology and applies them to problems she sees in everyday life, like cyberbullying and water contamination.'
CTV News Canada reports that Rao developed a device that detects lead in drinking water and connects to a mobile app. She said she was inspired to build that by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The teenager says she wants to inspire others to get into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
“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.”
This latest achievement is not Rao's only time in the limelight. She is a three-time TEDx speaker, the recipient of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s president’s environmental youth award, and in 2017 was named America’s Top Young Scientist and included on the Forbes "30 Under 30" list.
Time's Kid of the Year Special will air on the Nickelodeon Channel on December 4, 2020, at 7:30 p.m. ET.