TIME Magazine's "Kid Of The Year" Is Tackling Water Crises, Opioid Addiction + Cyberbullying At 15

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Gitanjali Rao has made it her mission to solve some of the world's leading problems by developing new technology to help fix everything from contaminated water to cyberbullying — and she's only 15 years old. It's no wonder that TIME Magazine and Nickelodeon named her the first-ever "Kid of the Year" out of a pool of more than 5,000 Americans, ages 8 to 16. (Get a glimpse at the amazing Top 20 finalists here.)

"I've always had a passion for science and developing ways to solve some of the world's biggest problems," Gitanjali says.

Though she's only getting started, she has already started tackling three of those problems: water crises, opioid addiction and cyberbullying. Not to mention, she wrote a book called A Young Innovator's Guide to STEM, available for pre-order now. 

Learn more about her three inspiring inventions below — Tethys and Epione are still in development, but Kindly launched last May and is available right now — and watch the video above for Gitanjili's chat with Rach. (Naturally, Rach was just as impressed with her as we are.)


"About four to five years ago, I heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and it was absolutely devastating to see how many kids my age were essentially drinking a poison every single day," she tells us. "Hence, I created Tethys, which is a device that detects lead in drinking or potable water faster and more inexpensive than the current tools out there. It sends all the data to your mobile phone on an app that I created." 


"My next invention was Epione," Gitanjali goes on, "which was a device to diagnose prescription opioid addiction. Epione is a portable device which you put in a blood sample. It's able to give you all of your results, again, on your phone — which then reads out the values and tells you if you're not addicted at all, on the onset of addiction or beyond addicted and gives you action items, including a map of the nearest addiction centers."


"My third invention is called Kindly, which is a global service that's able to detect and prevent cyberbullying at an early stage," TIME's first-ever "Kid Of The Year" says. "For the past ten years, I have moved to seven different schools, and [at] every new place [were] new experiences with cyberbullying, so the goal for Kindly was to prevent that. To close that gap of people who are getting bullied, because it's something that no one should ever face."

"Kindly is built on a continuously evolving machine learning-based algorithm, which means that it's able to keep up with the latest trends, slang, emojis, memes — and it's also considered to be non-punitive, meaning each bullying scenario is turned into a learning experience," she explains. "Every student gets a message that says, 'Hey, be aware of your words,' instead of going directly to a punishment or blocking it out for the victim."

We couldn't be more impressed, but Gitanjali is far from done. 

"I have a lot that I want to do, but I think the biggest thing is that I want to continue making a positive impact on my communities," she tells us. "Right now, I'm working on a way to detect parasitic contaminants in water by using something called genetically engineered microbes. I also want to look at how we can prevent future pandemics from happening."

"My hope for our generation is that we continue to be as hot headed as we are, and I know that sounds super weird, but when we want something, we are go-getters," she continues. "I want us to continue to stay that way. We all have the power to make a difference, and even if we get shot down and told no, we can still go and do what we love to do, because there's no one stopping us but ourselves." 

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