TIME Gives First-Ever “Kid Of The Year” To Teenage Scientist & Activist
The TIME Magazine highlights the youngest generation by unveiling its first-ever "Kid Of
The Year and awarding the inaugural award to a young activist and inventor.
At the age of 15, Gitanjali Rao, who lives in Colorado, graced the cover of TIME this December and will be honoured at the "Kid Of The Year" special on Nickelodeon on Friday night. The younger version is the spin-off of TIME's iconic 'Person Of The Year which has honoured world leaders and well-known historical figures for 92 years.
In a virtual interview with Academy Award-winning actor and activist Angelina Jolie, Rao said she started to learn about how science and technology could support social progress as early as the second or third grade.
Rao has been selected from a group of 5,000 candidates and is known for its technology and philanthropy of causes such as cyberbullying, polluted drinking water, and the drug epidemic.
Rao helped create an app named Kindly, which uses artificial intelligence to identify words or phrases that may be considered cyberbullying, and then recommends edits to the mobile user. Rao said the intention was not to prosecute, but to give people a chance to "rethink" what they say.
“I was like 10 when I told my parents that I wanted to research carbon nanotube sensor technology at the Denver Water quality research lab, and my mom was like, ‘A what?’” Rao told Jolie. “This work is going to be in our generation’s hands pretty soon. So if no one else is gonna do it, I’m gonna do it.”
Rao has partnered with several organisations, including the Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology Association and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, to help run her "Innovation Workshops" that help children develop their own ideas. She is also currently working on a way to identify bio-contaminants in water.
TIME writes that she wanted to launch the "Kid Of The Year after choosing the climate crisis campaigner Greta Thunberg as "Person Of The Year in 2019, when she was 16—the youngest person ever to receive the award. Thunberg's work has made it clear that today young people have tremendous influence," according to TIME.