15-year-old Indian-American Gitanjali Rao has been named by TIME magazine as its first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’. The young scientist and inventor was given the honour for her "astonishing work" using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
Rao was selected from more than 5,000 nominees and was interviewed by actor and activist Angelina Jolie for the TIME special.
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.
"If I can do it, anybody can do it," Rao said in the interview from her home in Colorado as she talked about her work using technology to tackle issues facing the world and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over.
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 that when she was 10 she told her parents that she wanted to research carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water Quality Research Lab.
Gitanjali started thinking of ways to use science and technology to create social change from the time she was in the second or third grade.
"I don’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," she said in her TIME interview.
Rao is a believer in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and works with schools, girls in STEM organisations, museums all across the world, and bigger organisations like Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology group and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London to run innovation workshops.
Rao’s parents, Bharathi and Ram Rao, have an academic background and supported her curiosity and intelligence.
The young scientist is also adept in playing the piano, Indian classical dancing and singing, swimming, and fencing. She was nine years old when she began to learn classical music.