Tethys and Beyond: Gitanjali Rao's Quest for Clean Water

The Flint water crisis, a tragic consequence of cost-cutting measures and neglect, unfolded against a backdrop of environmental degradation and economic decline in the city of Flint, Michigan. The Flint River, which was used as a trash dump for industries for over 100 years, made things worse for the city. When the city started using water from this dirty river without cleaning it properly, it led to a lot of people getting poisoned by lead. In fact, nearly 17% of the water tested had lead levels higher than what the government says is safe.

(Cpr news)

On top of that, there was an outbreak of a disease called Legionnaires’ and harmful bacteria were found in the water. At first, the people in charge didn’t admit there was a problem. But the people of Flint didn’t give up; they sued and demanded change, which made the government finally do something. Now, there’s a plan to fix the water pipes and keep helping the people of Flint. This shows how important it is for communities to stand up for themselves and make sure those in charge are doing the right thing, especially when it comes to the environment.

In Colorado, a smart seventh-grader named Gitanjali Rao is tackling a big problem: unsafe drinking water. At just 11 years old, she was inspired by the water issues in Flint, Michigan, to find a way to clean up lead in water. Her amazing work won her the title of “America’s top young scientist” and gives us hope for a future with cleaner water. Gitanjali invented a device called Tethys, named after a Greek goddess who represents fresh water. This cool gadget uses the latest tech to quickly find out if there’s lead in water. It’s a game-changer because it’s faster and cheaper than old methods. Tethys is a handy tool that lets people easily check their water’s safety. The water problems in Flint, Michigan, inspired Gitanjali Rao to start her journey of innovation. Seeing how hard it was for people to deal with unsafe water, she wanted to help. Gitanjali shares, “When I found out about Flint, I saw that using test strips wasn’t the best way to get correct results. I knew I had to try to make things better.”

Gitanjali Rao’s mission with her invention, Tethys, is to make testing for clean water accessible to everyone. Using advanced materials like carbon nanotubes and a simple smartphone app, she’s created a device that lets people and schools easily check their water for safety. Her goal is to empower communities to protect their health. With the guidance of mentors such as Dr. Kathleen Shafer and Selene Hernandez-Ruiz, Gitanjali has been perfecting Tethys to ensure it’s both accurate and reliable. Her mentors, especially impressed by her dedication, view her as an inspiration for future scientists.

Gitanjali’s work has earned her significant recognition, including being listed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30. She’s focused on the future, aiming to make Tethys widely available so that clean water isn’t just a privilege but a right for everyone. Her journey is a powerful example of how young people can drive important changes. Gitanjali’s creativity and persistence have broken new ground in environmental activism, proving that young people have the power to address serious environmental problems.

Though Gitanjali started her work in Colorado, the impact of her invention is spreading worldwide. Tethys has the potential to improve water safety not just in the U.S. but also in communities across the globe, offering hope to those dealing with water contamination.

Education and empowerment are at the core of Gitanjali’s work. Through programs like the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, she encourages other young people to dive into science and environmental care. She’s helping to raise a new generation of thinkers who can lead us to a greener future.

Gitanjali’s success is proof of the power of working together. With the support of mentors, scientists, community leaders, and advocates, she’s been able to make a significant impact and bring about real change. Looking ahead, Gitanjali’s dream is clear: she wants a world where everyone can have clean water. With her device leading the way, she continues to innovate with urgency and purpose, showing us that no problem is too big to solve with passion and creativity.

Gitanjali Rao’s story is an inspiring example of what passion, innovation, and determination can achieve. As a speaker and advocate for STEM education, she’s motivated people all over the world. She’s also an author, a student at MIT, and a pilot, always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Her story encourages us to believe in the power of dreams and actions to create a better future for all. Gitanjali stands as a beacon of possibility, showing us the incredible things that can happen when we take bold steps toward our goals.

Written By:

Saroj Sharma

Saroj has an experience of over 9 years working in the development sector as a social worker, educator and an independent researcher. She has worked extensively with the marginalized community in India and Nepal. She is an avid reader and takes a profound interest in writing, preferably human stories.

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