Indian American teen Gitanjali Rao becomes TIME magazine’s first ever ‘Kid of the Year’ 2020

TIME magazine has put an Indian American teen “scientist and inventor” Gitanjali Rao on its first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’ cover, selected from a field of more than 5,000 nominees for her “astonishing work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying”.

Dressed in a white lab coat, sporting a clutch of medals hanging from lanyards, Gitanjali Rao is pictured on the cover of the TIME edition dated December 14. Seated on a white bench, her shoulder-length hair blowing in the wind, Rao is a picture of teen cool and spunk in a year that has been headlined by science and scientists.

Rao’s interviewer, actor Angelina Jolie said, “Even over video chat, her brilliant mind and generous spirit shone through, along with her inspiring message to other young people: don’t try to fix every problem, just focus on one that excites you.” 

“The world belongs to those who shape it. And however uncertain that world may feel at a given moment, the reassuring reality seems to be that each new generation produces more of what these kids-five Kid of the Year finalists selected from a field of more than 5,000 Americans, ages 8 to 16-have already achieved: positive impact, in all sizes,” TIME wrote towards the beginning of the interview.

Rao’s latest innovation is Kindly, an app and a Chrome extension – which uses machine learning technology to detect early traces of cyberbullying.

Speaking about the same, Rao explained to Jolie, over a Zoom call, “I started to hard-code in some words that could be considered bullying, and then my engine took those words and identified words that are similar. You type in a word or phrase, and it’s able to pick it up if it’s bullying, and it gives you the option to edit it or send it the way it is.” 

“The goal is not to punish. As a teenager, I know teenagers tend to lash out sometimes. Instead, it gives you the chance to rethink what you’re saying so that you know what to do next time around.”

From developing an app to tackle cyberbullying to working on affordable technology that would allow one to ensure the purity of drinking water, for Gitanjali Rao, the sky is the limit.

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