Amazing People – Game Changers

Gitanjali Rao, 16, is an American inventor, author, scientist, and engineer. Honored as Forbes “30 Under 30 in Science” in 2019 and named TIME’s “Top Young Innovator.” In 2020, she was featured on the cover as TIME magazine’s very first “Kid of the Year.”

[Applause] [Music] so [Music] carl sagan said every kid starts out as
a natural-born scientist and then we beat it out of them a few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact and one of them is going to join us right now getanjali rao 16 years old is an american inventor author scientist engineer and science technology engineering and mathematics stem promoter she won the discovery education 3m young scientist award challenge in 2017 and was recognized on forbes's 30 under 30 for her innovations rau was named time's top young innovator of 2020 for her innovations and innovation workshops please welcome to our stage the incredible voice for the future of science gatanjali rao welcome first of all hello everyone it is such an honor to be speaking to everyone here today and i think it's important to start out by saying that i did miss a physics test for this but i think it's
immensely more important to be here so i'm assuming all of you have just finished watching the olympics one of the most important events that we have continuously gone through these past hundreds of years so here's something called the cue collar it's a very simple yet effective tool to help prevent concussions just by applying pressure on the neck no one thought of it until just the past 10 to 15 years and it's a solution that's so simple that anyone could have come up with it but that's exactly what innovation is putting things together in a way that no one's seen before no matter your age no matter anything to kick this off i'll tell you a little bit about myself you've heard from the mars exploration project you've heard from you know moderna you've heard from all these big organizations and some of the top innovators in our country and now you get to hear from a teenager um but i think the most important part about all of this is i put down author student promoter and student but the
thing that comes in front of everything else is student and that's exactly what i am i'm a 16 year old innovator and most importantly a student doing what she loves to do um the way i look at the world is a little bit different from everyone else regarding the fact that i see things in the user's perspective i look at impact as my first and main priority when it comes to innovating and coming up with solutions now unlike everyone else here my journey of innovation started at the ripe old age of three or four but before we get into all of that the biggest thing i want to discuss is what the future really looks like right we're seeing all of these technologies that we've heard today that we've heard in the past that are just consistently growing on a daily basis ai gene editing technology nanotechnology 5g all of these things that we're seeing however if we don't apply these for practical and functional uses out there today then we lose sight of what they're really helpful for our world is growing but we need to grow
up with it and that's exactly what i'm here to share now going back to my journey of innovation i came up with all sorts of creative is probably the right word but very simple tools to help solve problems that i thought were big societal issues on the top left corner we have esclepius which is a tool to help diagnose for snake bites using non-contact thermography technology on the bottom left is a wearable device that i like to call pollen screen which uses electrostatic ions to help prevent pollen ions from getting into your nose which is an issue that i struggle a lot with i had a little bit of an airplane phase in the middle after i heard about the malaysian airlines going missing i developed a way so that you can pull information out of a black box without having to locate it by just simply logging into it using underwater laser communications below that i created a tool called laser screen which helps prevent laser light from hitting a windshield and blinding a pilot using basically these compressed rubidium atoms bound together and on the right
side is a very early and might i say ugly version of a tool that i have built called at that point stylus chat which was an anti-cyber bullying service that helps to detect and prevent cyberbullying at an early stage now since then my ideas have become broader and have started to tackle more important societal issues one that i'm most known for is called tethys which helps to detect for lead and drinking water faster and more inexpensive than current tools it's built on carbon nanotube sensor technology and it sends all the data to your mobile phone on an app that i created as of the past three months tethys is now a patented device and i'm looking at mass producing it so that people all across the world can use it starting with field testing in places like flint michigan along with this i've created a device called epione once research is completed for this it will be the first ever clinical tool to diagnose for addiction and it uses standard collimatory processes and the basics of genetic engineering in order to detect protein
expressed by the mu opioid receptor gene so that you can diagnose addiction at an early stage it is still at a research phase however actually just as of last week i'm looking at expanding it to ai capabilities so that it's able to compare it to a set of previous results and tailor your results for your demographic now along with this i've created a test kit to help diagnose for cryptosporidium and drinking water it's my current project and don't worry if you know none of this makes sense to you on the bottom here because it doesn't necessarily make sense to me either but i'm looking at making a bioelectric sensor built on genetic engineering that again displays results on a mobile app because i love building apps but i'm still working on learning about how to do this exactly perfectly but it's a solution that i've had in mind for a while and last but not least here's kindly which is an anti-cyber bullying service built on the platform of natural language understanding and processing
using the power of artificial intelligence technology um recently i partnered with unicef to make this a digital public good along with an anti-cyber bullying initiative that comes with it it's one of the first ever non-punitive approaches to cyber bullying and one of the one one of the most accurate out there and built on an ai i'm actually working on expanding it so that i can partner with front-end platforms so instagram facebook twitter all these applications that we know and love almost having a spell check for cyber bullying another really cool thing about kindly is since it is ai it's always learning so on the kindly landing page anyone can go and contribute and add their own words and phrases in response to these sample prompts that you that it gives you and basically allows you to train the engine there and then which was a very interesting concept that i decided to add to it as well now saying all of that these was or these were just one branch of a lot of what i wanted to do i love coming up with solutions i love researching most
of my research is done at the university of colorado denver along with school that i'm doing but i think on another end another thing that i really wanted to do was watch this all happen right create a ripple effect for students across the world who have the same passion as me same excitement as me but the lack of resources technology and support to be able to bring them there so across the past three years i've run innovation workshops for students all across the world i've worked with 58 000 students across 37 countries in six continents unfortunately antarctica does not want workshops yet but hopefully one day um but yeah these these numbers keep growing but i've worked with students everywhere in partnership with the royal academy of engineering and the kakuma refugee camp in kenya and in partnership with angelina jolie in cambodia as well and those numbers just decide to keep going up and it's really really exciting to see all this impact happen firsthand now before i move a little bit into my process i want to share a concept that i'm sure all of you are familiar with and we've heard a lot about today
in my perspective i look at design thinking as not a process but as a concept right when i look at design thinking i think of this as something that's not just limited to research in academia it's far beyond that it's something that should be involved in every single thing of what we do every single day now the thing that's in red and is probably the most important thing on the slide is that design thinking should solve big problems we're seeing this combination of analysis and synthesis like we've never seen before and we're seeing this continuous iterative development of solutions right where it's no longer what the user wants but it's a combination of what the user wants and what the producer can do and when we're seeing this happen we're seeing more i guess fluid fluid ways of innovating and fluid ways of coming up with solutions as well now taking this concept of design thinking i created my own process of innovation which is five simple steps and i share this to every student that i
work with it's observe brainstorm research build and communicate as simple as it seems it's not as straightforward as it looks the best part about this process is that you can take it and make it whatever you want it to be i share this with all the students in the workshops that i work with as well and the biggest thing that i've learned from them is that everyone takes this their own way right innovation shouldn't be limited to a specific structure that is taught at schools per se it shouldn't have a deadline it should have something you basically create out of yourself the reason there's so many arrows and especially ones going to the beginning is because there's another six secret step that i like to talk about which no one likes to talk about which is iteration right um being here i like to say that i'm proud to have failed more times than i've succeeded and probably all the speakers here could have told you that as well because i've learned to accept failure as a part of the process as a part of me as a human being as well now i want to share three things with all of you that is you know a huge platform for who i am
the first one is awareness and the power of social media and bringing awareness to all of these problems and the role of students out there right by putting that message out there and showing students that they went to that's the biggest driving force of innovation our generation now the second one is mentorship if i have to request one thing from all of you today it would be to seek a mentee and mentor them in the areas that they're passionate about and i can tell you from personal experience that that is absolutely life-changing and probably standing here in front of some of the best innovators and creators in this country now use that to fuel the passion in students and to help them recognize that they're not alone in this journey because i promise you there's so many other kids out there who are just waiting to be supported and last but not least put out this offer offer of internships and research to these students who may not recognize that they can start at a young age when i decided to step into this world of innovation i was you know often shot
down not just because of my age but because of the way i looked and how i presented myself and i think it's important that all students get the opportunities to you know go into a lab one time or go into an office and experience what other people experience that one experience can change someone's whole trajectory and their whole path and that's how we create an innovator now again if you took nothing away from what i've said today i always like to put out these five key takeaways to kind of wrap everything up the first thing which you've heard a lot is aspire to be a lifelong learner never stop learning and never stop teaching and secondly innovation can't work on a deadline and we can't expect it to when we work with students we have to put out this message that it's not another homework assignment it's a path that you can follow and one that you can carve for yourself third find mentors and be one right even now right if no matter how old i am i still mentor people but even for my
parents they always tell me that the best people who guided them in their journeys their mentors as well now fourth curious don't be afraid to ask questions even if they are dumb ones um and the myth is true there is no such thing as a dumb question and i've heard everything and last but not least maintain that problem-solving mindset in everything that you do whether it's something small or something big now saying all of that i want to end with a quote from my favorite scientist marie curie nothing in life is to be feared it is only to be understood and that's why we're all here today to understand more and to fear less i think if i have to leave you all with one thing it's that our generation is growing up in a place where we're seeing these problems that have never existed before and innovation isn't necessarily an option it's a necessity and it needs each and every single one of us to come together and make an impact now so saying all of that it was so great to talk to all of you there's my book it's called a young innovator's guide to stem
it's available in 5 languages in case anyone wants to read in korean but i want to thank you so much for your time