Pre-Teen Invents New Approach To Water Testing

Nov. 2, 2017

Earlier this year I wrote about a group of 10 kids who were finalists for the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge (“Kids Solve Global Issues, Slay Science Challenge”). The challenge was open to students in grades 5-8 who developed innovations that solve global issues and improve lives. As part of the honor of being a finalist, they worked directly with a 3M scientist to develop their innovations as part of a unique summer mentorship program.

From those 10 super-smart kids a winner emerged. Eleven-year-old Gitanjali Rao from Lone Tree, Colo., is working to develop a sensor-based device that can detect lead in water faster than other current techniques. She was awarded the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” as well as a $25,000 prize.

After two years of studying major water crises, Gitanjali was inspired to invent a new approach to water testing. She named her invention Tethys after the Greek goddess of fresh water.

Gitanjali’s cost-effective approach to water safety uses a mobile app that populates the water’s status almost immediately. Tethys is designed to be portable and easy to use, allowing individuals to test water safety whenever needed. She hopes to solve the water contamination crisis and decrease long-term health effects from lead exposure.

Her mentor is Dr. Kathleen Shafer, a 3M research specialist who develops new plastics technologies that have real-world applications in dentistry and other fields.

Gitanjali’s advice for her peers: “I would tell everyone who is interested in STEM to just have fun! Just have fun with science and keep digging deep for solutions. If you do not succeed the first time, that's OK! There is never a limit to the number of tries it takes to accomplish a goal.”

You can check out all the finalists work here. I assure you it will give you hope for our future.

Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. She looks forward to following these kids’ careers in STEM. You can email her at [email protected].

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