Nearly three years ago, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan had everyone’s eyes glued on the small city. This included 12-year-old Gitanjali Rao from Colorado who was so distraught over the situation that she decided to take action to ensure this catastrophe would not happen again.
The invention, which ushered Gitanjali to become the 2017 winner of the Young Scientist Challenge, is an at home lead detector called Tethys, CBS News reports.
“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 spoke during her presentation at the national competition.
Some thousand miles away from her home, Gitanjali watched for nearly two years as the residents in Flint struggled for access to clean lead-free water.
“I’ve been following the Flint water crisis for about two years,” said Gitanjali. “Lead is mostly harmful to younger children, about my age — giving them growth defects and potentially damaging their brain.”
In Flint, nearly 100,000 residents reportedly drank lead contaminated water unknowingly for more than a year and to this day Flint still does not 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.
Her invention allows consumers to detect lead within seconds using carbon molecules and a mobile app versus having to wait days for water samples to be sent to a lab.
Gitanjali’s teacher, Simi Basu, is confident in her ability to bring Tethys into the market for the greater good. “I am so confident that she will be able to take it to the market if we keep providing her help,” Basu said to CBS, calling Gitanjali a “risk taker — she’s not afraid to fail.”