Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old Indian-American schoolgirl, was named as "America's top young scientist" for inventing a cost-effective, quick lead-contamination detector in water. The seventh-grade student was inspired by the large-scale lead contamination in water in Flint, Michigan, that came to light recently.The 11-year-old came upon the solution while browsing the website of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering, she told ABC News. When she read an article on new technologies that could be used to detect hazardous substances, Rao decided to adapt it to detect lead. She sought the help of her parents, Bharathi Rao and Ram Rao, both engineers, her teachers and experts at local colleges.
"It's not hyperbole to say she really blew us out of the water," Dr. Brian Barnhart, an Illinois school superintendent and one of the seven 3M judges, told ABC News. "The other nine kids, they were also such amazing kids, so for her to stand out the way she did with a peer group like this is like an exclamation point on top of it."
Gitnjali won $25,000 for taking the top position at the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
He added: "She is the kind of young person that we can all look forward to what she's going to do for society."