By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun
5:41 PM EDT, May 2, 2013
Someday, Burleigh Manor seventh-grader Lauren Shen might go to Google and see what the Internet search engine is displaying to millions of users throughout the country: her artwork.
Lauren, 12, is the state's winner in a Google-sponsored national contest called Doodle 4 Google, which challenges students in kindergarten through 12th grade to create their own version of Google's ever-changing home page logo. The altered versions of the logo are known as "doodles."
Google launched the contest in 2008 and also holds it in other countries. Google officials say more than 130,000 students participated in this year's competition, crafting redesigns of the logo based on the theme "My Best Day Ever …"
Wednesday might have qualified as the best day for Lauren.
That's when Burleigh Manor Middle School seventh-graders gathered at a morning assembly for the announcement that she had won the state competition. Many were unaware of the contest or that the winning entry was from a fellow classmate — but they might have gotten a hint when, before the announcement, students received Google T-shirts.
When Lauren's entry was announced as the state winner, she received a thunderous standing ovation. She then stood onstage with a poster-sized replica of her winning entry and explained the meaning behind the different design elements.
She said this year was the second time she had entered the contest and that the win was a testament to sketches she crafted during art classes she took when she was about 7 years old.
Still, she said, winning the Google contest was "really unexpected. I was very excited and overwhelmed."
The Ellicott City resident, who is of Taiwanese descent said, she chose as her best day ever a visit to Taiwan's capital, Taipei, five years ago. Her entry was titled "Travel to Taiwan."
Among the designs she chose on her colored-pencil drawing was an airplane flying through the letter "G" to represent her travel. The letter "L" took the shape of Taipei 101, a 101-floor skyscraper that was once the world's tallest building.
"I saw many sites, and I was able to see my [extended] family for the first time," she said.
"Some people might think of another culture, and I wanted to show that I was really Taiwanese," said Lauren, who added that her aim was to show how different the city looked from cities in the U.S.
Robert Shen, Lauren's father, is a civil engineer, and her mother, Jennifer Lo, is a software engineer. But her dad said Lauren gravitates to art.
"She likes painting and putting stuff together," Robert Shen said. "She has a very creative imagination."
Winning state entries across the country were announced Wednesday at the students' schools, kicking off nine days of online voting for the national winner. Their entries will also be part of an exhibit of 50 state winners at the American Museum of Natural History in New York from May 22 to July 14.
The winning state entries were chosen from among 250 finalists (five from each state) by guest judges that included television personality Katie Couric and "Lilo & Stitch" writer and director Chris Sanders.
The winning national entry will be featured on Google's U.S. home page on May 23 and will be announced at a ceremony in New York City, Google officials said. The winner will receive prizes including a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for his or her respective school. Four finalists will receive a $5,000 education grant.
Google marketing manager Kaili Holtermann said the company began using doodles in 1998, after founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who were heading to a festival, inserted a stick figure behind the second "O" in Google to indicate that they would be out of the office. That ushered in the idea of re-creating the logo, and Google officials said since then there have been more than 1,500 doodles created for the site's home page worldwide.
The redesign program has since become a way to spread the importance of student creativity.
"We are one of a few companies that allows young kids to play with our logos and put it on our home pages," Holtermann said. "It's really important for us to encourage creativity in the younger generations."
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