An 11-year-old’s fantastical water cleaning device won this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition.

Aug 05 2014

Animation Breathes Life into Google Doodle Winner’s Dreams

An 11-year-old’s fantastical water cleaning device won this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition.

Ever wonder what the story is behind some of Google's rotating, quirky logos, referred to by the search giant as doodles? 

More than 100,000 doodles were submitted for this year's Doodle 4 Google competition, now in its seventh year. The latest competition challenged young artists to draw an invention that would make the world a better place. Thousands of vivid imaginations conjured inventions such as a time machine that could alter history by, say, preventing natural disasters and bringing a future cancer cure into the present; a robotic bee that enters hives to collect data that explain why bees are dying; and a spray to add to fruits and vegetables to make them taste like a dessert.

Google flew 50 finalists, selected from each state by an online poll, out to its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters in May for the announcement of this year's winner: Audrey Zhang, 11, from Levittown, N.Y. Zhang's fantastical artwork depicts a densely populated natural landscape split in two: One side is vibrant and cleaned of pollution while the other is covered in waste. In the middle, a winged, water-pollution-cleaning machine hums busily to transform the filthy water into clean water.

Audrey Zhang's 2014 Google Doodle

"To make the world a better place, I invented a transformative water purifier," Zhang said of her creation on Google's contest page. "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."

Zhang, who has been creating art since she was 2, said she got the idea for her water-purifying machine after learning that millions of people die each year from diseases in polluted water. While she doesn't get many chances to explore nature, she said in an interview with EdTech: Focus on K–12 that she enjoys jungles and forests. Natural landscapes play a big part in her artwork, including her 2013 Google Doodle, which earned her a finalist spot for the state of New York.

"I like drawing water because it looks cool, and also because all living things need it to live," Zhang said.

For securing the top spot, Zhang's doodle was featured as the logo for Google's search page for June 9. A team of animators worked alongside Zhang to bring her still creation to life, complete with fluttering wings, wiggling creatures and of course, flowing water.

"I thought it was really cool. The leader of the doodle team, Ryan Germick, asked me what I wanted to animate, and they did it for me. I have always been interested in animation, I definitely will doing more animation in the future," she told EdTech.

For her environmentally sound artistic endeavor, Zhang received $30,000 in college scholarship funds; her school will receive a $50,000 Google for Education technology grant; and Google will contribute $20,000 in her name to a nonprofit charity, water, that will use the funds to provide clean water to schools in Bangladesh.

The fanfare at Google headquarters wasn't the end of the celebration, either. Zhang received a hero's welcome when she returned home to Levittown.

"My whole school welcomed me back by throwing a huge parade inside the school. They even made a red carpet out of construction paper. After that, the Board of Education invited me to their meeting to congratulate me," Zhang told EdTech.

All in a day's work for a fifth-grader.

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