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CCSS: 6.EE.B.8, MP4, MP5, MP6

TEKS: 6.9A, 6.9B

One Cool Kid

Meet Time magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year

Sharif Hamza/Time Magazine (Cover); Andy King/Discovery Education (All Other Images)

Gitanjali Rao with her award at the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

For almost 100 years, Time magazine has picked a Person of the Year, to recognize someone—or something—who has had a major impact the previous year. Activists, politicians, scientists, and even a computer have won. But in 2020, a new award was introduced: Kid of the Year.

That honor went to Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old scientist and inventor from Lone Tree, Colorado. Gitanjali tackles everything from opioid addiction to cyberbullying. She also mentors other young inventors, hoping to inspire kids to identify issues in their communities that they might be able to fix.

Gitanjali came up with her first major invention when she was 12 years old. After learning about lead water pollution in Flint, Michigan, she was inspired to invent a device that could quickly detect lead in water. Exposure to lead can affect brain development, leading to learning and behavioral problems. It can also damage internal organs and weaken muscles and bones. “Seeing how many people were affected by lead in their drinking water was appalling,” she says.

For almost 100 years, Time Magazine has picked a Person of the Year. The title goes to someone—or something—who has made a big difference that year. Activists, politicians, scientists, and even a computer have won. But in 2020, a new award was introduced: Kid of the Year.

That honor went to Gitanjali Rao. She’s a 15-year-old scientist and inventor from Lone Tree, Colorado. Gitanjali builds things she thinks can help other people. She also teaches other young inventors to identify issues in their communities that they might be able to fix.

Gitanjali came up with her first major invention when she was 12. It started when she learned about lead water pollution in Flint, Michigan. She was inspired to invent a device that could quickly detect lead in water. Exposure to lead can cause problems with brain development. It can also damage internal organs and weaken muscles and bones. “Seeing how many people were affected by lead in their drinking water was appalling,” says Gitanjali.

After learning about Flint, Gitanjali’s family wondered about the safety of their own water. Gitanjali’s parents, who are both engineers, bought lead test strips to check water samples from their tap. But the results weren’t very clear. That got Gitanjali wondering: Is there a better way to test for lead?

Gitanjali created a prototype of a device called Tethys that tests for lead faster than sending samples to a lab for analysis. It also gives more detailed results than other home-testing methods. It won her the top prize in the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge—the first of many.


After learning about Flint, Gitanjali’s family wondered about the safety of their own water. Gitanjali’s parents are both engineers. They bought lead test strips to check water samples from their tap. But the results weren’t very clear. That got Gitanjali wondering: Is there a better way to test for lead?

Gitanjali created a model of a device she called Tethys. It tests for lead faster than sending samples to a lab for analysis. It also gives more detailed results than other home testing methods. It won her the top prize in the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She won many more prizes after that.

Gitanjali explains how her invention to test lead in water works.

No matter what project she’s working on, Gitanjali’s always looking for ways she can help. “Some of these big problems that we’re seeing now can’t be solved just by looking at them,” she says. “We have to do something about them. Innovation is needed now more than ever.”    

Gitanjali is always looking for ways she can help with her projects. “Some of these big problems that we’re seeing now can’t be solved just by looking at them,” she says. “We have to do something about them. Innovation is needed now more than ever.”  

Write and graph inequalities about lead contamination and testing in the U.S. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Write and graph inequalities about lead contamination and testing in the U.S. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

A. About 155,700 public water systems provide drinking water to U.S. residents.Of those, more than 5,000 have lead contamination. Express this inequality using the variable c.

A. About 155,700 public water systems provide drinking water to U.S. residents.Of those, more than 5,000 have lead contamination. Express this inequality using the variable c.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

A. In the U.S., drinking water with lead concentrations below 15 parts per billion is considered safe for people to drink. Express this inequality using the variable w.

A. In the U.S., drinking water with lead concentrations below 15 parts per billion is considered safe for people to drink. Express this inequality using the variable w.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

A. A standard at home lead test strip can detect lead levels no less than 2,000 parts per million. Express this inequality using the variable d.

A. A standard at home lead test strip can detect lead levels no less than 2,000 parts per million. Express this inequality using the variable d.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

A. Gitanjali’s invention, Tethys, can detect lead levels of at least 15 parts per million. Express this inequality using the variable t.

A. Gitanjali’s invention, Tethys, can detect lead levels of at least 15 parts per million. Express this inequality using the variable t.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

B. Graph the inequality on the number line below.

Samples taken across the city of Flint showed a range of lead levels from at least 397 parts per billion to at most 13,000 parts per billion. Write this range as an inequality using the variable f.

Samples taken across the city of Flint showed a range of lead levels from at least 397 parts per billion to at most 13,000 parts per billion. Write this range as an inequality using the variable f.

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