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Innovation tips from a young science and tech whiz

A little more than two years ago, Gitanjali Rao earned international accolades as the 11-year-old who created a portable device to quickly detect lead in water. Today, the enthusiastic teenager continues to follow her passion for making the world a better place through technology.

A ninth-grader at STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, the young science and technology whiz (pictured below) is preparing to Gitanjali Raoscale test and mass market her device, called Tethys after the Greek goddess of freshwater.

Her patent pending device led to her being named America’s Top Young Scientist of 2017 by the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She also was recognized as a 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 for science.

At a recent presentation at the American Water Works Association, Rao said she also is researching how to detect other heavy metal contaminants in water, writing a book about innovation, and researching the development of applications to mitigate opioid addiction and cyber-bullying. She participated in Innovation Lounge activities at AWWA’s 2019 Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE19).
Gitanjali Rao
“STEM is so broad, and I have a huge passion for working with multiple-disciplinary fields,” she said. “I’m a believer that everything can be solved by technology, and I love to use science as a catalyst for social change.”

She is involved in promoting STEM-based activities in schools, clubs and communities and was selected as a National STEM Scout of the Years.
From her experience as an innovator, Rao shared this process she uses to come up with new technological solutions:

  1. Observe the world around you and learn about what problems need to be solvedGitanjali with superhero comic
  2. Brainstorm ideas and put all thoughts on paper
  3. Research the latest developments in technology for feasibility, narrow down your ideas to the top two or three, and select the most significant and impactful idea
  4. Build a test solution
  5. Share your idea

“It’s a matter of figuring it out along the way,” she said, “and finding a way to make a difference.”

Rao aspires to study genetics and computer science and hopes to keep writing, discovering and sharing her knowledge in the future. On March 6, a Marvel Superhero project based on her blend of science and kindness aired on DisneyPlus. (Pictured above, she shows a comic book depicting her superhero)