For the first time ever, the iconic TIME Magazine has announced a “Kid of the Year”—a 15-year-old scientist and inventor from Denver, Colorado. The teenage prodigy—Gitanjali Rao—has brought the world a variety of innovations, including a lead-detection device, which is capable of finding lead in drinking water, and an app that detects cyberbullying by using AI.

Gitanjali was picked out from 5,000 Americans aged 8 to 16, which was later reduced to five finalists. For the 15-year-old scientist, it’s just one of her many awards—after all, Gitanjali was just 11 when she won the Young Scientist Challenge for her lead-detection device.

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Gitanjali Rao—a 15-year-old inventor from Denver, Colorado—snatched the title of “Kid of the Year”

Image credits: TIME

TIME’s 2020 “Kid of the Year” was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list last year. “Twelve-year-old Gitanjali Rao took the top prize in the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge for her lead-detection device, which is capable of finding lead in drinking water with the aid of a mobile app. She’s currently working to refine and commercialize her device,” Forbes then wrote.

Gitanjali Rao was interviewed by the actor and activist Angelina Jolie for TIME magazine. “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,” the 15-year-old told Angelina. “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,” the young innovator continued.

“If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it”

Image credits: gitanjaliarao

“You type in a word or phrase, and it’s able to pick it up if it’s bullying, and it gives you the option to edit it or send it the way it is,” the 15-year-old explained in a Zoom interview for TIME, talking about Kindly—an app which uses artificial intelligence tech to detect early signs of cyberbullying.

“The goal is not to punish. As a teenager, I know teenagers tend to lash out sometimes. Instead, it gives you the chance to rethink what you’re saying so that you know what to do next time around,” she continued.

In order to find their “Kid of the Year,” TIME magazine teamed up with Nickelodeon. They searched social media as well as school districts all across the United States. All five finalists of the competition will receive a cash prize and will be recognized during a “Kid of the Year” TV special hosted by Trevor Noah that airs today.

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