Congratulations to our 2017 Top Young Scientist, Gitanjali!

11-year-old Gitanjali Rao from Lone Tree, CO, won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Read on to learn more about her incredible innovation: Tethys.


After being announced as one of the 2017 Top 10 Finalists in June, Gitanjali began working alongside her 3M Scientist Mentor, Dr. Kathleen Shafer, a 3M research specialist who develops new plastics technologies that have real-world applications in dentistry and other fields.

Gitanjali collaborated with Dr. Shafer, who provided guidance as they worked through the scientific method to advance her idea into a physical working prototype: Thethys

Rather than using expensive equipment for testing, Gitanjali wanted to make a an alternative that was easy to use, portable and inexpensive. Tethys is made up of three parts: a disposable cartridge using carbon nanotube arrays, an Arduino-based signal processor with a Bluetooth attachment, and a mobile smartphone app. She designed this sensor-based device to use a mobile app to populate the water’s status for almost immediate results.


Gitanjali was moved by the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and began to do research on the topic. She was shocked to learn that there was not a quick or efficient process for testing for lead in your home. Gitanjali hopes that her innovation can help solve the water contamination crisis and decrease long-term health effects from lead exposure.


Gitanjali hopes to use the $25,000 Grand Prize to help pay for college and to help fine-tune her device in order to make it available to the public. She said, "I feel every individual has a right to know if their drinking water is safe."


The remaining nine finalists received $1,000 and a variety of prizes from Discovery Education and 3M. The second, third and fourth runners-up also received a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks.

These extraordinary students are:

Rithvik Ganesh, an eighth-grader at C.M. Rice Middle School from Plano, Texas, received second place. Rithvik built upon existing research to conduct tests and identify one lead molecule from Apigenin, a compound found in fruits and vegetables, that could potentially be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Looking forward, Rithvik hopes to take his findings through in vitro and in vivo testing and improve thousands of lives affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Kathryn Lampo, a ninth-grader at Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo., received third place. Kate created Lawn Bot, a water management robot designed to help individuals reduce the amount of fresh water wasted during home lawn care. Kate’s innovation aims to be a more cost-effective and aesthetic water management system that measures the moisture content in soil. Made from starch-based plastic and powered by solar energy, Lawn Bot is also environmentally friendly. Kate hopes her innovation will help reduce the amount of fresh water wasted.

Devin Willis, a ninth-grader from Florida Atlantic University High School in Boca Raton, Fla., received fourth place. Devin created SLIDEMAP, a device that integrates a motorized stage used in 3-D printers, microscope imaging and machine learning algorithms to distinguish a tumor as cancerous or benign, increasing accuracy and speed of diagnoses. Devin was inspired to improve the state of treatment after his grandfather passed away from cancer, and tapped into his passion for robotics to develop a solution. He hopes his innovation will improve current standards of global healthcare by enabling faster, more accurate and affordable diagnoses, especially in developing countries where access to medical professionals is scarce.

That's all for the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge - mark your calendars - the 2018 Young Scientist Challenge opens in December, 2017.