An 11-year-old Scientist Wins 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 15:43

The 11-year-old scientist could win the grand prize in the nationwide 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for students between grades 5 and 8.

Gitanjali Rao, 11, was appalled by the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich and designed a device to test for lead faster, Business Insider reports. Her winning invention was a sensor that can more accurately detect lead levels in water compared to current methods.

"The idea just came to me when I saw my parents testing for lead in our water," Rao, a seventh-grader, told Business Insider. "I went, 'Well, this is not a reliable process and I've got to do something to change this.'"

Over the course of the summer, Rao worked with 3M scientists to bring her proposed sensor to life. The device, which Rao named Tethys, uses carbon nanotubes to detect the presence of lead. She tuned, or "doped," the carbon nanotubes specifically to detect lead, pairing the device with a mobile app displaying the water's status.

Her solution was so ingenious that, Rao was named "America's Top Young Scientist" in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge — a distinction that comes with a check for $25,000. Rao plans to save some of the prize money for college but use the rest to invest in her device to make it commercially viable.

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