Get ready to feel like the biggest failure in life. Why? I’m about to blow your mind with the work of an 11-year-old scientist who will save Flint, Michigan—and then the world.

Gitanjali Rao from Lone Tree, Colorado is already more brilliant than any of us will ever be in life. The STEM School and Academy student won the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for creating a portable device that efficiently checks for lead content in water. Did I mention she’s 11?

The challenge is a national competition for middle schoolers. Rao was among 9 other brilliant finalists and took home $25,000 for her invention. It took two years of research on areas with a water crisis like Flint, Michigan and three months to develop the device.

Her low-cost invention uses disposable cartridges to test the water and connects to a mobile app that will show you the results. She came up with the idea to use nanotechnology after reading about it on MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s website.

She approached teachers and engineers to help her develop the project which took three months. She named her invention Thethys, after the Greek goddess of fresh water.

Want to know more about her invention? Check out this demo video:

Want to see more? You can catch Rao on every channel from Fox Business Network and NBC’s Inside Edition to ABC’s Today Show.


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The other nine finalists didn’t walk away empty-handed. They each took home $1000 each for their inventions. Some of Rao’s competition included a robot that reduced water waste during lawn care and a cleaning agent for oil spills made from pomegranate husks orange peels.

Seriously, what are these parents feeding these kids? And WTF am I doing with my own life?!

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