This 12-Year-Old Colorado Girl, Concerned About the Water Crisis in Flint, Mich., Invented a Lead Detector

CBS News screenshot
CBS News screenshot

What have you done with your life lately? How have you shown up and shown out for your fellow man? Because there’s a 12-year-old girl all the way in Colorado who saw what was going on in Flint, Mich., with the water crisis due to lead poisoning and decided to invent a lead detector.


According to CBS News, Gitanjali Rao is the 2017 winner of the Young Scientist Challenge because of her invention.

“Imagine living day in and day out drinking contaminated water with dangerous substances like lead. Introducing Tethys, the easy to use, fast, accurate, portable and inexpensive device to detect lead in water,” Gitanjali explained during her presentation for the national competition.

And her solution was inspired by a real-world problem that she was witnessing some thousand miles away from her home.

“I’ve been following the Flint water crisis for about two years,” the precocious preteen said. “Lead is mostly harmful to younger children, about my age—giving them growth defects and potentially damaging their brain.”

Of course, she was talking about the nearly 100,000 residents of the Michigan city that unwittingly consumed and used lead-contaminated water. To this day, Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

“That’s not something I want to go through, what the Flint residents went through ... our water quality’s just as important as doctor’s appointments or dentist’s appointments,” Gitanjali said.


Now, with the help of her invention, it would be possible to detect lead in seconds using carbon molecules and a mobile app rather than having to sit down and wait for days for water samples to be sent to a lab.

Children are literally the future.

And one of Gitanjali’s teachers, Simi Basu, sees that as well.

“I am so confident that she will be able to take it to the market if we keep providing her help,” Basu told the news site, calling Gitanjali a “risk taker—she’s not afraid to fail.”


As for what Gitanjali is cooking up next? She’s hoping to create a “happiness meter which measures the amount of serotonin in your body or the amount of gamma rays, and I still have to figure out how this works.”

I don’t know what we did to deserve Gitanjali, but this kid is destined for even more great things.


Read more at CBS News.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi


Hey little girl, you know what you’ll detect on my Happiness Meter? Regret. Lots of regret.

Good for you little lady scientist. Bad for you government, state and local. A 12 year old kid from thousands of miles away has done more for Flint than most of you ever have, combined. Y’all ain’t shit.