webLoaded = "false" Loadclientside=No
State of science index banner
webLoaded = "false"
webLoaded = "false"

Science Champions

View all podcasts
  • Gitanjali Rao, Student & Winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

    Episode 4: A Kid’s Eye View of Science

    We often ask adults how we can make science fascinating for kids. Why not ask a kid who is already a scientist and inventor? We talk to award-winning youth scientist Gitanjali Rao about what inspires her.

    Listen to our Champions of Science on Apple Podcasts Listen to our Champions of Science on Google Play Listen to our Champions of Science on Spotify Listen to our Champions of Science on Stitcher


webLoaded = "false"

Featured guest

  • Gitanjali Rao, Student & Winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

    Gitanjali Rao, Student & Winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

    Gitanjali Rao was only twelve years old when she invented a device that measures lead in drinking water and beams the results straight to your smartphone. She is the winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and presented at TEDx in Nashville, TN.

    Twitter

Teachers need to support the dreams of students and allow them to invent, share their ideas, and be flexible. @Gitanjaliarao #ScienceChampions #CelebrateScience
Click to Tweet

webLoaded = "false"

Read Full Episode Transcript

  • Science Champions - A Kid’s Eye View of Science

    Jayshree Seth: 58% of people we surveyed said they don’t feel confident in their knowledge of science. How can we help kids get excited to learn about science while they’re young? We’ll ask a kid who is a scientist, on this episode of Science Champions.

    Welcome to Science Champions. I’m your host, Jayshree Seth, Chief Science Advocate at 3M.

    We need to get kids passionate about science today so they can become the innovators, discoverers, and inventors of tomorrow. If you have kids, you know that they naturally have a scientific mindset; They constantly experiment, they’re not afraid of failure, they approach the world with curiosity and wonder. But how can we nurture and foster that mindset, rather than stifling it?

    Who better to ask than someone who is already a scientist, an inventor, and a public speaker — and hasn’t even graduated from high school? At just 12 years old, Gitanjali Rao developed an invention that measures the lead content in drinking water. She won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her invention. She’s given TEDx Talks, presented at the 2018 MAKERS conference, and was recently listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 for science. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year. Gitanjali, thanks for joining me today.

    Gitanjali Rao: Yes, thank you so much.

    Jayshree: Let’s start with your impressive invention. Can you explain how it works and how you developed it?

    Gitanjali: So, I created a device to detect lead in water faster and cheaper than current techniques today. So how it works is the device uses carbon nanotube-based sensors to detect the lead in water, and it sends the results to your mobile phone on an app that I created for easy access and use for the device. Regarding how I developed it, it was a whole process. So in the beginning, I had to start out with research and looking at if this actually was a problem and how I could create a solution to the problem. And then I started going into building and experimenting to make my device more accurate and create it like a device rather than it being just an idea on paper and then continuing to develop it every day.

    Right now, I'm working on some of the marketing ideas or marketing side of the device related to, I guess, the commercial feasibility of the device and seeing the potential in the market. So that's what I'm working on right now and then continuing to work on it as I do more testing and simultaneously keep looking at how this will do in the market.

    Jayshree: So, it seems like there are a couple of different processes: Having the idea, making the idea into a physical thing, then turning that into a product. That sounds pretty familiar to me based on what I do at 3M! But tell me, what got you interested in drinking water contamination in the first place?

    Gitanjali: So I heard about the Flint water crisis about three years ago, and it really, like, opened my eyes towards how some of us are actually...actually, most of us are taking our water for granted. And it doesn't...it makes sense but, looking at all these people who don't have clean water to drink, even though water is a right that everyone has, is just so unfair to me, and I think it was just important to me to solve that problem as soon as possible.

    Jayshree: We definitely need more bright scientific minds addressing that problem, for sure. Stepping back a little bit, though: Have you always been interested in science? What got you started?

    Gitanjali: I've always been interested in science or the idea of seeing things change or forming a reaction. When I was three or four, my uncle got me a science kit, and I played with that a lot. And eventually, I started to expand more than just a science kit, going into inventing and creating my own experiments and my own solutions.

    Jayshree: What were the experiments in the kit like? Do you remember any of them?

    Gitanjali: They were really, really basic. They were like baking soda and vinegar, or like, create your own volcano or something like tiny experiments like that.

    Jayshree: Oh yes, the volcano is a classic. So, besides your uncle, were there other adults who have been role models?

    Gitanjali: So, obviously, my parents and then I also have Marie Curie as just...like, even though she isn't living right now, she's always been an inspiration to me as, like, a strong woman in science.

    Jayshree: How have your parents supported your scientific exploration?

    Gitanjali: My parents have always just supported and encouraged me in whatever path I'm taking. And so, they've always been so supportive of being interested in science and creating my own solutions. And they've been, you know, providing me with the things I need and have always made sure that I have the best supplies and materials to be able to tackle my problems.

    Jayshree: So this is exciting for me, because we have asked at least 20 adults now how we can get kids more excited about science. You’re the first kid that we get to ask! So I think I would start with, what do you like most about your science classes?

    Gitanjali: So, I really love how all my science classes are super hands-on in my school. And it's easier for me to be able to understand the topics rather than just looking at a board and taking down notes. I go to a STEM school, so our curriculum is based on hands-on learning, and it's just so helpful to me as a student to be able to understand. I'm more of a hands-on learner. So it's more fun, and it's easier to understand, as well.

    Jayshree: Can you think of a specific experiment you’ve done in school that you thought was especially cool?

    Gitanjali: Yes! What we've been doing is dissections in class to learn about, you know, the parts of a mouth. And we had two options, either we could do like an online simulation, or we could do the dissection. And all of us chose the dissection because that's way more fun than doing an online simulation. And when we do notes, we don't always do slideshows or things like that. Most of the notes are the teachers doing a demonstration and we're taking notes on that. Or it’s a participation grade for us, being able to do the experiment as well.

    Jayshree: How does your teacher encourage that participation?

    Gitanjali: I guess my teachers are always open to whatever ideas that we have, regarding projects and things like that. She doesn't necessarily...like most of the projects we do in class are, like, our own choice projects. And, like, she'll give us a main topic, and we create a video, or we do a skit or a presentation, or we do have like a podcast or some sort of recording and it doesn't really… whatever appeals to us is what we get to do for our projects. And not just that, like many of the experiments we do, she gives us an experiment or like, "Figure out what this mystery liquid is." And she has a whole bunch of materials on the counter, and we have to do whatever we can to figure out what that mystery liquid is. And it's just… we're able to choose what we want to do. And it gives us more freedom, rather than doing what the teacher wants us to do and tells us exactly what to do.

    Jayshree: Do you find that open-ended style of work more liberating than intimidating, then?

    Gitanjali Rao: Yes, thank you so much.

    Jayshree: Let’s start with your impressive invention. Can you explain how it works and how you developed it?

    Gitanjali: So, I created a device to detect lead in water faster and cheaper than current techniques today. So how it works is the device uses carbon nanotube-based sensors to detect the lead in water, and it sends the results to your mobile phone on an app that I created for easy access and use for the device. Regarding how I developed it, it was a whole process. So in the beginning, I had to start out with research and looking at if this actually was a problem and how I could create a solution to the problem. And then I started going into building and experimenting to make my device more accurate and create it like a device rather than it being just an idea on paper and then continuing to develop it every day.

    Right now, I'm working on some of the marketing ideas or marketing side of the device related to, I guess, the commercial feasibility of the device and seeing the potential in the market. So that's what I'm working on right now and then continuing to work on it as I do more testing and simultaneously keep looking at how this will do in the market.

    Jayshree: So, it seems like there are a couple of different processes: Having the idea, making the idea into a physical thing, then turning that into a product. That sounds pretty familiar to me based on what I do at 3M! But tell me, what got you interested in drinking water contamination in the first place?

    Gitanjali: So I heard about the Flint water crisis about three years ago, and it really, like, opened my eyes towards how some of us are actually...actually, most of us are taking our water for granted. And it doesn't...it makes sense but, looking at all these people who don't have clean water to drink, even though water is a right that everyone has, is just so unfair to me, and I think it was just important to me to solve that problem as soon as possible.

    Jayshree: We definitely need more bright scientific minds addressing that problem, for sure. Stepping back a little bit, though: Have you always been interested in science? What got you started?

    Gitanjali: I've always been interested in science or the idea of seeing things change or forming a reaction. When I was three or four, my uncle got me a science kit, and I played with that a lot. And eventually, I started to expand more than just a science kit, going into inventing and creating my own experiments and my own solutions.

    Jayshree: What were the experiments in the kit like? Do you remember any of them?

    Gitanjali: They were really, really basic. They were like baking soda and vinegar, or like, create your own volcano or something like tiny experiments like that.

    Jayshree: Oh yes, the volcano is a classic. So, besides your uncle, were there other adults who have been role models?

    Gitanjali: So, obviously, my parents and then I also have Marie Curie as just...like, even though she isn't living right now, she's always been an inspiration to me as, like, a strong woman in science.

    Jayshree: How have your parents supported your scientific exploration?

    Gitanjali: My parents have always just supported and encouraged me in whatever path I'm taking. And so, they've always been so supportive of being interested in science and creating my own solutions. And they've been, you know, providing me with the things I need and have always made sure that I have the best supplies and materials to be able to tackle my problems.

    Jayshree: So this is exciting for me, because we have asked at least 20 adults now how we can get kids more excited about science. You’re the first kid that we get to ask! So I think I would start with, what do you like most about your science classes?

    Gitanjali: So, I really love how all my science classes are super hands-on in my school. And it's easier for me to be able to understand the topics rather than just looking at a board and taking down notes. I go to a STEM school, so our curriculum is based on hands-on learning, and it's just so helpful to me as a student to be able to understand. I'm more of a hands-on learner. So it's more fun, and it's easier to understand, as well.

    Jayshree: Can you think of a specific experiment you’ve done in school that you thought was especially cool?

    Gitanjali: Yes! What we've been doing is dissections in class to learn about, you know, the parts of a mouth. And we had two options, either we could do like an online simulation, or we could do the dissection. And all of us chose the dissection because that's way more fun than doing an online simulation. And when we do notes, we don't always do slideshows or things like that. Most of the notes are the teachers doing a demonstration and we're taking notes on that. Or it’s a participation grade for us, being able to do the experiment as well.

    Jayshree: How does your teacher encourage that participation?

    Gitanjali: I guess my teachers are always open to whatever ideas that we have, regarding projects and things like that. She doesn't necessarily...like most of the projects we do in class are, like, our own choice projects. And, like, she'll give us a main topic, and we create a video, or we do a skit or a presentation, or we do have like a podcast or some sort of recording and it doesn't really… whatever appeals to us is what we get to do for our projects. And not just that, like many of the experiments we do, she gives us an experiment or like, "Figure out what this mystery liquid is." And she has a whole bunch of materials on the counter, and we have to do whatever we can to figure out what that mystery liquid is. And it's just… we're able to choose what we want to do. And it gives us more freedom, rather than doing what the teacher wants us to do and tells us exactly what to do.

    Jayshree: Do you find that open-ended style of work more liberating than intimidating, then?

    Gitanjali: Yeah, for sure. I know there's a lot of students who do find that intimidating. But by the end of it, it's almost like you're doing what you want to do, and it's not like “school is bad,” “school sucks.” It's like it's almost fun by the end of it because you're kind of taking your own path and doing what you love to do.

    Jayshree: What else do you want adults to know about kids and science? What I mean is, you have a platform here; adults are listening to it. What do you want to tell them?

    Gitanjali: I want them to know that, you know, obviously, to continue supporting students in science or a kid who wants to invent, because many of the things, say, you know, you have to focus on homework, right? We don't have the time for that. And even schools, too, if you go up to them and tell them, "I've been working on an invention of mine,” or something like “I didn't have time to do the homework" or something like that, or "I've been traveling around the world to, you know, display my invention," and things like that, not all schools are always supportive of that and flexible. And so, I think it's important that they continue to support the dreams of students and allow them to invent and share their ideas and be flexible towards that.

    Jayshree: Thank you, Gitanjali. It’s so enlightening to get your perspective on all of these questions! We’ll have to have more people your age on the podcast. But tell me, what are you working on now? What’s next for you?

    Gitanjali: So I'm actually working on an invention to help diagnose opioid addiction at an early-stage, or prescription drug addiction. And since it's such a current topic and problem, and that's what I'm currently working on and continuing to expand. But after that, I'm not really sure. You know, it's whatever problems that I see, I start to tackle and create a difference for.

    Jayshree: Do you plan to keep studying science in college, and maybe pursue a STEM career?

    Gitanjali: Yes, for sure. I actually want to work in biomedical engineering or genetics at MIT is where I want to study. So, for sure, I want to continue to pursue. Actually, even if it's not science, some sort of field in STEM, like science, technology, engineering and math because that's really my passion.

    Jayshree: I have no doubt you’ll do anything you set your mind to. Thank you so much for joining me today.

    Gitanjali: Thank you for having me again!

    Jayshree: What can adults do to encourage children to pursue science? We can start by maintaining our own sense of curiosity and wonder so we can pass that along by example. Then we need to create time and space for kids to practice hands-on science—forming a hypothesis, trying and failing, following their own interests to create experiments.

    In other words, the best way to raise children to be scientists… might be to acknowledge that they already are.

    Thanks for listening to Science Champions. For more in-depth analysis of the current state of science, join us at 3m.com/scienceindex. And make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

    Yeah, for sure. I know there's a lot of students who do find that intimidating. But by the end of it, it's almost like you're doing what you want to do, and it's not like “school is bad,” “school sucks.” It's like it's almost fun by the end of it because you're kind of taking your own path and doing what you love to do.

    Jayshree: What else do you want adults to know about kids and science? What I mean is, you have a platform here; adults are listening to it. What do you want to tell them?

    Gitanjali: I want them to know that, you know, obviously, to continue supporting students in science or a kid who wants to invent, because many of the things, say, you know, you have to focus on homework, right? We don't have the time for that. And even schools, too, if you go up to them and tell them, "I've been working on an invention of mine,” or something like “I didn't have time to do the homework" or something like that, or "I've been traveling around the world to, you know, display my invention," and things like that, not all schools are always supportive of that and flexible. And so, I think it's important that they continue to support the dreams of students and allow them to invent and share their ideas and be flexible towards that.

    Jayshree: Thank you, Gitanjali. It’s so enlightening to get your perspective on all of these questions! We’ll have to have more people your age on the podcast. But tell me, what are you working on now? What’s next for you?

    Gitanjali: So I'm actually working on an invention to help diagnose opioid addiction at an early-stage, or prescription drug addiction. And since it's such a current topic and problem, and that's what I'm currently working on and continuing to expand. But after that, I'm not really sure. You know, it's whatever problems that I see, I start to tackle and create a difference for.

    Jayshree: Do you plan to keep studying science in college, and maybe pursue a STEM career?

    Gitanjali: Yes, for sure. I actually want to work in biomedical engineering or genetics at MIT is where I want to study. So, for sure, I want to continue to pursue. Actually, even if it's not science, some sort of field in STEM, like science, technology, engineering and math because that's really my passion.

    Jayshree: I have no doubt you’ll do anything you set your mind to. Thank you so much for joining me today.

    Gitanjali: Thank you for having me again!

    Jayshree: What can adults do to encourage children to pursue science? We can start by maintaining our own sense of curiosity and wonder so we can pass that along by example. Then we need to create time and space for kids to practice hands-on science—forming a hypothesis, trying and failing, following their own interests to create experiments.

    In other words, the best way to raise children to be scientists… might be to acknowledge that they already are.

    Thanks for listening to Science Champions. For more in-depth analysis of the current state of science, join us at 3m.com/scienceindex. And make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

  • Apple and the Apple Podcasts logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC. Spotify and the Spotify logo are trademarks of Spotify USA Inc. Stitcher and the Stitcher logo are trademarks of Stitcher, Inc.
Follow Us
The brands listed above are trademarks of 3M.
Change Location
United States - English