11-year-old Audrey Zhang of Long Island, New York, is the creator of the drawing on Google’s homepage today. She’s not a full-time designer, Google Doodle team member, or anything else. She’s a student who beat out more than 100,000 other submissions from students in K-12 grades across the United States in the seventh annual Doodle 4 Google contest.
This year’s contest had kids looking towards the future with this theme: “If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place…” Google selected 10 nominees from each of five school-grade categories from the thousands of entries it received. The general public voted on the finalists—one from each of the 50 states.
What made Audrey’s drawing stand out? It’s a whimsical approach to a serious problem. Her combination of creativity, fun, and inventiveness caught the Google Doodle team’s collective eye. Google Doodle team leader Ryan Germick commented to the Washington Post: “Every leaf [of Audrey’s drawing] seemed to have life in it.” Here is how Audrey herself describes her work, “Back to Mother Nature”:
“To make the world a better place, I invented a transformative water purifier. It takes in dirty and polluted water from rivers, lakes, and even oceans, then massively transforms the water into clean, safe and sanitary water, when humans and animals drink this water, they will live a healthier life.”
Ms. Zhang won a $30,000 college scholarship, and she also won a $50,000 Google for Education technology grant for her school in Long Island. She is also responsible for a donation of $20,000 by Google to her charity, clean water for schools in Bangladesh, in honor of her invention. An anonymous donor has matched Google’s $20,000, so the charity will receive $40,000 total. And, of course, she is also getting some online fame and a chance to work with the Google Doodle team on the animation of her drawing — pretty cool.
A serious student, Audrey seems to be keeping her feet on the ground despite her success. On the night before her invention went live, Zhang told Newsday that although she was excited about winning the contest, she would not be awake to see her animation go live at midnight. Why? Because she had school in the morning, of course.