Express News Service
CHENNAI: Gitanjali Rao drew inspiration from the news. Hearing about the Zika virus outbreak, she wanted to use genetic editing to prevent it in the future. When she heard about the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight (in 2014), she created a black box search. When the great Great Water Crisis struck Flint, Michigan, she was inspired to do her best work – a device that could identify lead compounds in water and was portable and relatively inexpensive. She brought this to life with chemically treated arrays of carbon nanotubes and made it simple enough to deliver results to your smartphone. All this up to 12 years.
Since then, Gitanjali has added more awards to the list. She was listed by Forbes 30 to 30, received the first-ever title of “Child of the Year” from Time magazine (in addition to being named best innovator and featured on the cover), was appointed a UNICEF youth lawyer using science to tackle problems. and received a National Geographic Young Explorer grant. She is the author of the book “A Guide for Young Innovators on STEM”, which helps students and faculty to independently develop a prescriptive first five steps to the innovation process. Through her workshops, she has influenced more than 58,000 students in 37 countries. It was this long series of achievements that the US Consulate General in Chennai celebrated on February 11 on the occasion of International Women and Girls in Science Day. He was also part of a series of diaspora US government diplomacy.
Speaking about her path to innovation, Gitanjali noted how it arose from a simple desire to help her loved ones. “There has never been a single moment that has helped me combine science and technology. It was a constant idea to come up with solutions to global problems and literally do something simple to change someone else’s life. My innovation streak began when I created my first in second grade that was underground to save space. In places like the International Space Station, which gives astronauts a lot more opportunities to walk and do experiments, it’s not what many people think, but it was what I was thinking about in second grade, ”she said.
Then came the device to detect snake venom at an early stage. From then on, she decided to create a different device every year. “After all, my goal was to become a creator of change, to create influence in our society. That’s why I like to say that my ideas take place in different fields, because there is always something new to learn, ”she said.
All this genius was not born alone. A key component was comprehensive learning that prioritized creativity and innovation over memorization. “Instead of focusing on academic and math exams, she (her school) seems to have shifted the way she teaches to problem-based learning. Our exams can give us a problem and solve it, “she said. The high school student, who is currently in the class of technical informant, will be instructed to disassemble the laptop and reassemble it in future exams. This priority, which leads to creativity and practical learning, started in kindergarten, she explained.
Although our education system is far from a systematic solution to this issue, much remains to be done to promote student learning, conducive to innovation. And it starts with including them in the problem-solving process, she suggested. “Our generation is growing up in a place where we see things that have never been before. Innovation is not limited to research or scientists. Ideas that seemed unviable in the past are starting to become more and more a reality due to advances in technology. In addition, the participation of everyone is important – men, women, youth or any minions. Everyone’s ideas matter, ”she said.
The way forward
Although we have made great strides in STEM education for girls around the world, it is necessary to combat the subconscious stigma and conditioning that are still associated with it, she suggested. “We need to understand that learning about STEM fields for girls can work just as well as for boys. It seems the girls focus only on coding or robotics, it seems there are no intermediates. But we cannot limit ourselves to this. The combination of this interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and practical application in society is able to inspire young women. We can combine it with art, creativity, history and music, ”she said in detail. All it takes is the first step, she assured young creatives and innovators around the world.