An 11-year-old has wowed the world with her incredible invention. Inspired by the Flint water crisis in Michigan, Gitanjali Rao, invented a device to change the way we test for lead in water.
Gitanjali Rao is just a normal girl from Michigan but who would have thought that this girl could impact the world?
Unlike most children her age, Gitanjali spends her free time exploring science and reading materials at MIT’s science department materials. And that’s where Rao learned about a recently developed nanotechnology that could pave the way to be used for a new purpose.
The Birth of Tethys
Inspired by the Flint water crisis that happened in Michigan in 2014, Rao went on to give birth to her invention named Tethys. “I started following the Flint water crisis two years ago when I was nine,” said Gitanjali Rao.
Using carbon nanotube sensors similar to those developed by MIT, these tiny carbon tubes can detect lead in water. A small Arduino processor (a simple computer kit) connects to the nanotubes, and a Bluetooth attachment sends the results to a smartphone. Nearly instantly, you can know if your water is safe to drink. This made Gitanjali Rao a finalist in Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
“I’ve always been interested in science because it’s all about providing real world ways to solve problems in the world,” says Gitanjali.
The technology reportedly can process accurate findings faster than existing methods like using paper strips or sending the samples to Environmental Protection Agency office for testing.
Not her 1st invention
The budding inventor who also loves music – can play piano, clarinet and bass guitar – said that this is not her first invention. “I invented a tool that detects snakebite severity by identifying the type of venom in the bite,” she says.
“I found that different types of venom have different heat signatures and they show up differently when you use a thermographic camera.”
Rao’s lead testing kit can potentially cost at about $20 or less at a scale, she hopes to develop it for production. While the part of the device is dipped into the water for testing, it needs to be replaced each time it is used, the rest is reusable. Rao is currently working with a mentor.
“I really am interested in making it into a product that people can buy,” she says. “I believe that it would make the process so much easier, and I believe that everyone has a right to know if their drinking water is safe or not.”