By: Shreyoshi Chakraborti
Born 19 November 2005, the 15-year-old is named the TIME top young innovator of 2020, for her contribution in the field of science and technology. In 2017 she won the Discovery innovation 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was recognized on Forbes 30- under 30 for her innovations. On December 2020, she was on the cover page of TIME magazine as the “Kid of the Year”.
Rao states that her motivation for research came from the incident of Flint water crisis while she was watching the news. Flint water crisis occurred from a sewage water plant leak in Flint Michigan which then changed the source to river water permanently. In an interview Rao states that “I can’t believe that children like me are drinking poison every day”. Her motivation driven research made her develop a device named “Tethys” in collaboration with 3M, where she used carbon nanotubes which detects lead levels in water (the nanotubes resistance changes with lead), with a Bluetooth extension and a processor that works through a mobile app. She won $25,000 in the 2018 MAKERS conference and is trying to implement the technology in the existing water plants. As of January 2019, she is working with a Denver water facility to make a prototype of the technology.
She is a 3-time TEDx speaker. In 2018 she was awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency President’s Environment Youth Award. Additionally, she is an accomplished pianist, as she thinks music soothes mind and body. She is currently a member of scouts and has enrolled in the Scouting STEM program in the United States. Rao has expressed her interest in studying genetics and epidemiology at MIT in the future. As a kid she spoke publicly about the gender pay gap and devised an app that detects cyberbullying at an early stage.