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National Honoree

Photo of National Honoree Gitanjali  Rao

Gitanjali Rao

United States of America

Gitanjali Rao, 15, of Lone Tree, Colorado, a sophomore at STEM School Highlands Ranch, has reached more than 30,000 students around the world, encouraging younger generations to think creatively about confronting the world’s big challenges by leading online workshops where she shares the unique problem-solving methodology she created. Gitanjali is a scientist whose creations include devices to detect lead in water and diagnose opioid addiction. She also has pioneered technology to discourage cyber bullying. While working on these projects, she came up with her own process for guiding an idea from concept to reality. She started sharing this process with elementary students at her school, and received such positive feedback from the kids, parents and teachers that she realized she could take it to students beyond her school “to inspire them to create their own creative solutions to world problems,” she said.

Gitanjali organized her process into an easy-to-understand format, documented it, and created a workshop curriculum with lesson plans and resources for research labs, contests and mentorships. Then she began working with schools, after-school camps, gifted-student programs, girls’ STEM groups, and eventually, international organizations to hold workshops for students around the world. She currently holds 2-3 sessions a week, each attended by about 150 students. “The vision is to introduce innovation tools and techniques earlier in our education, so that everybody is thinking about using science as a catalyst for social impact and change,” she said.