She's a 15-year-old with huge goals and dreams
In an interview by Angelina Jolie on Zoom, a famous academy award-winning actor, she speaks with the young Gitanjali Roa, who has just been selected as the first-ever Kid of the Year on the iconic TIME magazine in 2020.
Jolie herself is no stranger to this with her own face on it years ago. However, Roa, who has been selected from 5000 other kid contenders, is only fifteen years of age.
As someone so young, she has already achieved so much with her inventions. Not only this, she’s looking to inspire other young people to solve problems that excite them rather than trying to solve every world problem.
“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.”
But why is she worthy of being TIME’s first-ever kid of the year? Let’s take a look at her achievements.
Her development of Tethys
In 2014, the Flint water crisis caused water supplies to reach toxic levels, with over 100,000 residents being exposed to high lead levels within the water. When Rao saw this, she wanted to help create a device to measure lead content in the water.
She collaborated with a 3M scientist to develop a device that used carbon nanotubes that could send back information via Bluetooth. It works because the carbon nanotubes help detect lead as it sticks to carbon ions. This resistance is then measured and then sent back via an app to see if the water is safe to drink.
The goal of the device is simple, to provide safe drinking water back to homes. As of early 2019, she wants to work with the Denver water facility to get a prototype out in the next two years in 2021.
A huge list of other inventions
Not only has she developed Tethys at a young age, but multiple other inventions. This includes a tool to help provide early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction that she developed at only the age of 13.
She also worked on developing a cyberbullying application that uses AI called Kindly. The app, as well as chrome extension, helps detect cyberbullying, especially through social media applications.
I started to hard-code in some words that could be considered bullying, and then my engine took those words and identified words that are similar…The goal is not to punish. As a teenager, I know teenagers tend to lash out sometimes. Instead, it gives you the chance to rethink what you’re saying so that you know what to do next time around. — says Roa in her interview with Jolie
Even though she is young herself, she hopes to educate children about kindness and regularly does workshops in elementary schools to help spread the message around anti-bullying.
She’s a global speaker and writer
For those who understand how daunting it is to speak on stage, imagine doing so at such a young age. I still get stage fright even when speaking in front of ten people.
Rao has spoken in front of hundreds and thousands. She has addressed four TEDx conferences so far (yes, four!) and spoken at various global conferences worldwide. Not only this, but she’s also a UNICEF panelist on how youth can empower our world and create a better planet for us all.
Not only can she speak, but she can write as well.
She has actually won national and international awards in writing contests and published her own book at the age of nine. One of the most amazing parts of her is how fearless she is and ready to tackle problems in new ways.
She is selfless
In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why she was chosen. Although she has a huge bucket list of achievements and inventions, her goal is to do good for the planet.
All of her inventions, including the code for her cyberbullying app and lead detection devices, are all open-sourced and has since been used in other applications. She is on the board for the Children’s Kindness Network to help conduct workshops around anti-bullying and has recently hit her goal of mentoring 30 000 students.
Roa mentions many kids actually want to start their own thing but are lost on what to do. She aims to give them that spark that is needed because if one more person wants to come up with ideas to help solve problems, that’s one more solution.
Why she deserves the achievement
Apart from the huge list of inventions, awards, and leadership roles she has undertaken, it’s important to distinguish one important thing.
One of my favorite things about her is she isn’t just a speaker with a list of awards but someone who looks to create and invent constantly while empowering others.
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.
This combination of traits plus her selflessness puts her on top of all the other nominees as TIME’s kid of the year.