In a first, 15-year-old Indian-American Gitanjali Rao, a "brilliant" young scientist and inventor, has been named by TIME magazine as the 'Kid of the Year'. The young girl has been recognised for her "astonishing work" using technology to combat issues like contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
"The world belongs to those who shape it. And however uncertain that world may feel at a given moment, the reassuring reality seems to be that each new generation produces more of what these kids have already achieved: positive impact, in all sizes," the magazine said.
The young girl was selected from over 5,000 nominees. She was interviewed by actor and activist Angelina Jolie for the TIME special.
"Observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate," Rao said.
Rao was in second or third grade when she thought about how she can use science and technology to create social change. She was 10 when she first told her parents that she wanted to research carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water Quality Research Lab.
During the interview, the 15-year-old talked about her "astonishing work using technology and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over."
"If I can do it, anybody can," she said.
Rao said that her generation is facing many challenges that were never seen before.
"But then at the same time, we're facing old problems that still exist. Like, we're sitting here in the middle of a new global pandemic, and we're also like still facing human-rights issues. There are problems that we did not create but that we now have to solve, like climate change and cyberbullying with the introduction of technology," she said.
"I think more than anything right now, we just need to find that one thing we're passionate about and solve it. Even if it's something as small as, I want to find an easy way to pick up litter. Everything makes a difference. Don't feel pressured to come up with something big," Rao said.
Rao also shared that she always wanted to bring a smile on someone's face. "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?" she said.
Rao said that she doesn't look like "your typical scientist. 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."
"My goal has really shifted not only from creating my own devices to solve the world's problems, but inspiring others to do the same as well. Because, from personal experience, it's not easy when you don't see anyone else like you. So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it," she said.