Kids do say the darnedest things, but occasionally they do the "darnedest" things that blow you away. An 11-year-old girl from Colorado, Gitanjali Rao, just won $25,000 from the Young Scientist Challenge, as "America's top young scientist," for her invention. She designed a compact device that is able to detect if there is any lead in the water that you are drinking.
Rao was inspired to do something after she became aware of the Flint water crisis, and how the residents of Flint, Michigan were being forced to drink contaminated water. Water that was contaminated by the city itself when it decided to cut costs and switch to a different system of pipes. The pipes were not properly treated, causing them to rust and leech lead and other toxins into the water.
"After I learned about Flint," said Rao, "I continued to research and follow it for the next couple years. Then, I saw my parents testing for lead in our water and that is pretty much what sparked the idea. I realized that using test strips would take quite a few tries to get accurate results and I wanted to do something to change this, not only for my parents but for the residents of Flint and places like Flint around the world."
There are currently two ways to test for lead in water. One is through a lab, which is quite time-consuming. The other is by using home-test strips. You get quick results, but they are not always completely accurate.
Rao's device, "Tethys," named after the Greek Titan goddess of fresh water, is cheap and completely accurate.
It only cost her $20 to make the prototype, and that includes custom fabricated pieces. Imagine how low the cost can get when it is mass produced.
As for what Rao plans to do with her $25,000 windfall, "I plan to use most of it in developing my device further so that it can be commercially available soon," she said.
Share this to help celebrate this incredibly brilliant and selfless young scientist.