Gitanjali Rao is just 11 years old but has already earned her first science prize for her invention. The girl is this year's winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
She has invented a sensor capable of detecting the presence of lead in water more effectively and precisely than methods used so far.
Along with her prize, Rao took home a $25 000 check, while her idea is going to be further developed and applied in Michigan in hopes of resolving the water crisis in the nation.
"I got the idea while watching my parents check their water for lead, " the student told Business Insider. She realized that the method wasn't accurate enough and decided to come up with a new one.
Water containing lead has been a serious problem for 5300 water supply systems in the US since 2016 and to check whether their water is safe to drink, people have been forced to rely on only 2 techniques.
The first method uses strips that register the presence of lead, although this process is not particularly accurate. For the 2nd method, samples of the water need to be sent to a laboratory but testing and the sending back of results take time.
In response, Gitanjali has come up with a more effective solution. During summer break, she was hard at work developing a specialized sensor which she later sent to the 3M Young Scientist committee.
The device is called Rao Tethys, named after the Ancient Greek goddess of water, and uses carbon nanotubes to detect the presence of lead. The results are sent minutes later to a phone via a mobile app.
The young inventor reveals that she will continue working on her sensor to make it even easier to use and make it commercially available to people who have issues with water contamination.