Gracing the cover of the first ever TIME Kid of the Year is young scientist Gitanjali Rao. On the cover, she is sporting Converse shoes, a collection of medals reflecting just a sampling of her scientific successes and a bright white STEM Scouts lab coat. As noted in the dazzling TIME article, the 15-year old beat over 5,000 other nominees for the honor.
She has a wide variety of accomplishments, with innovations in areas ranging from testing water quality to battling opioid addiction. In all of these fields, she uses her process of ‘observe, brainstorm, research, build communicate’ to tackle any given problem. Her gifted mind, backed by an obviously extremely strong work ethic has enabled her to accomplish a sprawling resume that she houses in the form of her personal website.
Beyond working on her anti-cyberbullying app (Kindly), writing a book and a host of other inventions and innovations, Ms. Rao also hosts workshops to educate and inspire other young scientists around the world. She does this because, as noted in her interview with TIME, she says “[Her] goal has really shifted not only from creating my own devices to solve the world’s problems, but inspiring others to do the same as well. Because, from personal experience, it’s not easy when you don’t see anyone else like you. So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it.”
Outside of her school work and person innovation projects noted above, Ms. Rao is a Board Member of the Children’s Kindness Network and a Knowledge Network Partner with Forbes Ignite. She has been honored with the EPA Presidential Youth Award, has been named Discovery Education’s America’s Top Young Scientist and has given several Ted Talks. In addition to these other national-level positions, Ms. Rao was named the STEM Scout of the Year in 2018 after having been a member of STEM Scouts for seven years.
What is STEM Scouts?
As stated in the Mission, “Using experiential activities and interaction with STEM professionals, the goal of the STEM Scouts program is to help young people grow in character and skills as they explore their curiosity about STEM fields. It is hoped that their growing knowledge will translate into the STEM-related careers that are so crucial to our country’s future economy. While the program focuses on future careers in STEM, it is ultimately designed to be challenging, thought-provoking and, most importantly, fun!” STEM Scouts was created nationally seven years ago, with this year being the fifth year of the program in Denver.
We didn’t want to do this program if it wasn’t going to be opened up to both girls and boys, since STEM doesn’t have a gender.
Sarah Barnett, a Scouts BSA District Director who was involved in the initial development of STEM Scouts, “We didn’t want to do this program if it wasn’t going to be opened up to both girls and boys, since STEM doesn’t have a gender.”
That intention has certainly held out for the benefit of Ms. Rao, who has been involved in STEM Scouts for seven years, having been in the initial pilot program. She joined a lab in Tennessee in 2014 and has since moved to the Denver Area Council, where she has been a member of Lab 3003 for four years. As noted above, Scouting saw her honored as the STEM Scout of the Year in 2018.
STEM Scouts labs operate in groups of 10-20 students with at least three leaders per unit. These groups then meet weekly to engage in a variety of standard-backed curricula that provide education and inspiration for the young minds. The lessons – created by STEM educators – focus on participation and achievement to encourage students of all abilities. Additionally, the program provides a variety of leadership opportunities through group work and presentations. In Denver, this program has been continuing even through this difficult school year.
This is the sixth year of Denver’s program. In that time, there have been 66 labs serving over 880 STEM Scouts beyond Ms. Rao. As said by Denver’s STEM Scouts Program Executive Kyle Tons, “We couldn’t be prouder of Gitanjali for her contribution to STEM Scouts and the world. We look forward to all of the future accomplishments this bright young woman will surely achieve.”
Looking to support the STEM Scouts of the Denver Area Council? Donations can be made here. Thank you for your contribution!