After following the plight of residents of Flint, Michigan, who’ve been dealing with an ongoing water crisis for years, a Colorado seventh-grader created a way to try to help. Gitanjali Rao was surprised there wasn’t a fast, reliable way to test the water for lead, so the 11-year-old invented one herself.
Rao spent months fine-tuning the technology behind her invention, which is “a disposable cartridge containing chemically treated carbon nanotubes that can be dipped into a water sample.” Results are sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth and within seconds, an app reads the results. Her device, which is called Tethys, after the Greek goddess for clean water, earned her the title of America’s Top Young Scientist at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge Program, and a $25,000 prize she plans to put into her college fund.
“I’ve always been interested in science because it’s all about providing real world ways to solve problems in the world,” says Gitanjali. And to kids who are intimidated by science her advice is, “Don’t be afraid to try it. When I was working on my experiment, I failed a lot and got frustrated. But failing is just the first attempt at learning.”