What Made Gitanjali Rao TIME’s First Ever Kid of the Year 

Indian American Gitanjali Rao is a young scientist and inventor.

South Asians
2 min read

Fifteen-year-old Indian American Gitanjali Rao from Colorado has been named TIME’s first ever Kid of the Year 2020. Rao, who is a young scientist and inventor, was selected from more than 5,000 nominees and can be seen on the 14 December cover of TIME.

Rao has been selected for her use of technology to bring about social change, which ranges from subjects like cyberbullying, opioid addictions to contaminated drinking water.

In an interview with Angelina Jolie, Rao spoke about her passion for science, her projects, her “innovation sessions” and normal “15-year-old things” like baking.

Kindly and Other Passions

Speaking about the beginning of her journey as a scientist and inventor, Rao said: “That was my everyday goal, just to make someone happy. And it soon turned into, how can we bring positivity and community to the place we live? And then when I was in second or third grade, I started thinking about how can we use science and technology to create social change.”

Kindly is one of Rao’s innovations that seeks to achieve this goal. It is an app, as well as a chrome extension that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying. “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,” Rao explained, adding that she believes this is a way to learn, rather than encourage punitive ways of handling the topic of cyberbullying.

Indian American Gitanjali Rao is a young scientist and inventor.
(Photo: Twitter/@gitanjalirao)

Working on the principal of “observe, brainstorm, research, build, communicate”, Rao has collaborated with rural schools, women in STEM organisations, museums all across the world, and bigger organisations like Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology group and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London to run “innovation workshops.”

‘It’s not Easy When You Don’t See Anyone Else Like You’

Speaking on representation in the sphere of science and technology, Rao expressed her primary message is to make sure people understand “If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it.”

She adds, “Everything I see on TV is that it’s an older, usually white man as a scientist. It’s weird to me that it was almost like people had assigned roles, regarding like their gender, their age, the colour of their skin.”

When asked asked if her hobbies were anything else besides being a “60-year-old scientist from Geneva”, Rao said that she enjoys baking.

“I bake an ungodly amount. It’s not good, but it’s baking. And, like, it’s science too” she said.

(with inputs from TIME)

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