Preteen Invents Device to Aid in Flint Water Crisis

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.


Rao hard at work in her home lab. Photo: Bharathi Rao


“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:


SF Supervisor Jane Kim Proposes Taxing Robots

A commonsense approach to a problem that's only going to get bigger.

In August, SF Supervisor Jane Kim launched a campaign called Jobs of the Future Fund, with intentions to find solutions for those who will inevitably lose jobs as automation increases.

“Proceeds from the tax would bankroll things like job retraining, free community college, or perhaps a universal basic income―countermeasures Kim thinks might make a robotic future more bearable for humans,” says Wired.

The campaign’s site states that this ‘automation revolution’ has the potential to eliminate more jobs than the Great Depression and Great Recession combined. As much as half of the jobs in the US will disappear “through the transition to robot, algorithms or other forms of automation.”


Uber is piloting self-driving cars. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)


Jobs of the Future is an organization and outreach program that asks for policy makers, labor leaders, businesses and civic organizations to start thinking about solutions to this problem.

The solution their touting: a statewide California tax on automated robots, just like our workers today are being taxed (inspiration taken from Bill Gates). If companies are required by law to pay taxes for the automation the money can be funneled into education and retraining for those whose jobs have become obsolete.

As Kim reminds us, this is all very new territory. The terms ‘job displacement’ and ‘automation’ are still actively being defined. If you’d like to get involved and voice your opinion as Californians start working towards ballot measures, do it here.

Donate to their Crowdfunding campaign here


Photo: TechCrunch

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