Seventh-grader Gitanjali Rao is America's `Top Young Scientist'

Andy King  Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

"I like finding solutions to real problems", she said in a demo video for her product, which is called "Thethys" after the Greek goddess of fresh water.

Named "America's Top Young Scientist" for developing a device to quickly and simply detect lead levels in water, this young woman is at the forefront of change for the city in MI that has gone without clean water and large-scale resolutions since roughly 2014.

In making her presentation in a final competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., Rao presented her invention to a panel of 3M scientists, school superintendents and administrators from across the country, according to the news release.

An 11 year old scientist from Colorado creates a more efficient way to detect lead in water.

Gitanjali's invention was inspired by the scandal in Flint, Michigan, where officials are facing charges, including manslaughter, over water contamination in 2014-15.

Though more than 5,300 water systems in the USA are lead-contaminated, people have to rely on two methods for the testing lead which are either time consuming or not accurate.

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At present, testing for lead is expensive and samples need to be sent away for analysis to generate reliable results.

Rao tells ABC that while she was doing her weekly perusal of MIT's Materials Science and Engineering website to see "if there's anything's new", she read about new technologies that could detect hazardous substances and made a decision to see whether they could be adapted to test for lead. She wanted to devise a smarter, more effective solution.

3M and Discovery Education said the middle school student was awarded the title of "America's Top Young Scientist" as well as a $25,000 prize for her work. "The tool allows easy testing at home or by agencies for quick detection and remedial actions".

"Imagine living day in and day out drinking contaminated water with unsafe substances like lead", she said. She was selected from 10 finalists who had spent three months collaborating with scientists to develop their ideas. Gitanjali hopes to become a geneticist or an epidemiologist in the future.

"I studied a little bit of both of these topics since I was really interested in these fields", she told Business Insider, "and then I came up with this device to help save lives".


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