An 11-year-old girl who was inspired by the Flint water crisis has been named “America’s Top Young Scientist.” Gitanjali Rao, created a device that allows users to quickly test for lead levels in water.
The seventh-grader found a solution while browsing the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s website, a site she checks regularly to see “if there’s anything new.” It was on this website that she discovered an article on technologies used to detect hazardous substances, reports ABC.
She decided to reach out for help, requesting support from her parents, teachers, engineers and experts from local colleges and universities.
“I had been following the Flint, Michigan, issue for about two years. I was appalled by the number of people affected by lead contamination in water, and I wanted to do something to change this,” says Rao.
Rao spent months attempting to convince local colleges and universities to help support her and she would eventually created a lab in her room.
“I have a room with green walls and black polka dots and a huge white table for all my experiments,” said Gitanjali. “Most of my code was done there. Most of the spills and failures were made there.”
Earlier this year, Rao was named one of 10 finalists in the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. It allowed her to partner with a 3M scientist to finish developing the product. The result was the creation of Tethys, a sensor-based device that can detect lead in water faster than any other products currently on the market.
— Forbes (@Forbes) October 18, 2017
“If you take a shower in contaminated water, you do get rashes and that can easily be studied by an epidemiologist,” she said. “And if somebody drinks lead in their water, their children might have small, minor defects.”
Wednesday, October 17, Rao presented her invention to a panel of judges in a live competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was awarded the grand prize and received $25,000.