As the rest of the country moved on from the Flint water crisis this 11-year-old got to work.
Gitanjali Rao is an 11-year-old Colorado native who spends her free time perusing the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s website. Just, like, regular 11-year-old stuff. But why? Fair question. She’s finding inspiration for her inventions.
Rao’s been closely following the Flint, Michigan, water crisis for the past two years, so when she was on the MIT website and stumbled upon an article talking about new technologies able to detect hazardous materials she had an idea: create a technology so those who live in areas with potentially unsafe water sources can quickly test it for cleanliness.
Rao’s parents – also engineers – knew this wasn’t an easy endeavor so they discouraged her a little at first. But Rao convinced high schools and universities to give her lab time to experiment, though most of her ‘spills and failures’ happened in her lab room at home.
“I had been following the Flint, Michigan, issue for about two years,” Rao told ABC News. “I was appalled by the number of people affected by lead contamination in water and I wanted to do something to change this.”
Rao called her invention Tethys – the Titan daughter of fresh water in Greek mythology. Tethys consists of three parts – a cartridge equipped with chemically treated carbon nanotube arrays, a processor with Bluetooth capabilities, and a smartphone app that delivers the results.
Rao won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge which came with a $25,000 check, most of which she’ll put towards making her prototype commercially available for those who need it. And, unfortunately, a lot of people need it.
Rao says she plans on becoming a geneticist or epidemiologist. We have no doubt she’ll be great at either, or both.
Watch her speak and try not to weep with pride: