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Doodle 4 Google winner Audrey Zhang, of Levittown, takes over Google homepage
Visit Google's homepage today and marvel at the intricate and interactive doodle created by an 11-year-old Long Island girl.
An animated version of the drawing that recently won Levittown fifth-grader Audrey Zhang the national 2014 Doodle 4 Google contest went live on the site at midnight Sunday and will be on display throughout Monday.
In an interview Sunday, Audrey, a student at Island Trees Middle School, said she was "excited" to see her masterpiece brought to life, but she wasn't planning to be awake when it debuted at midnight. She said she would see it when she woke up Monday morning.
"I have school tomorrow, so I can't stay up late," she said, while taking a break from drawing a picture of a bird.
On Monday, Hongmei Weng said she has fielded nearly a dozen calls from media organization wanting to interview her daughter.
“I’m so proud,” she said in an interview. “It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s so awesome at the same time.”
Weng, who said she worked as a fashion designer in China, said her daughter went to bed around 10 p.m. after a day of yard work. Audrey was excited for Monday morning.
“She reminded me: ‘Don’t forget’,” Weng recalled her daughter saying.
“It was like Christmas Eve for her,” Weng said.
Audrey got up around 6:50 a.m. on Monday. She hustled downstairs and saw her drawing on the Google site.
In April, Google representatives came to Audrey's school to crown her the contest's New York State winner for the second consecutive year. Then, the company flew all the state finalists from across the country to its headquarters in Mountain View, California, last month for educational workshops and an awards ceremony.
There, Audrey learned that her doodle had garnered the most online votes in the fourth- and fifth-grade division, making her a national finalist, and a panel of judges had selected her to be the overall winner.
In Google fashion, the winner was revealed using a colorful and elaborate Rube Goldberg machine. Last year’s winner, Wisconsin’s Sabrina Brady, pulled a lever on the machine, setting off a chain reaction sequence that ultimately led to Audrey’s name and her doodle appearing on a big screen.
“She was very excited and ran back to the stage to get her second trophy,” said Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic. “She was proudly holding onto both for the rest of the afternoon.”
While in California, Audrey spent May 22 brainstorming with a team of Google animators to add some movement to her complex drawing before it hit the homepage. The illustration, titled “Back to Mother Nature,” is set in a forest and features a mythical, winged water purification machine.
Audrey indicated that she wanted to see the machine move.
"There's so much in Audrey's wonderful doodle to animate, it took the doodle team the next couple of weeks to get it ready for its debut on Google's homepage," said Doodle 4 Google program manager Liat Ben Rafael.
Audrey's illustration also inspired the company to give back. The theme for this year's contest was "If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place," and Radosavljevic said many of the more than 100,000 submissions Google received, including Audrey's, dealt with the issue of water quality.
In Audrey's name, Radosavljevic said the company is donating $20,000 to a charity that brings clean water and latrines to schools in Bangladesh.
“She’s going to be able to make a difference,” Radosavljevic added.
Audrey also won a $30,000 college scholarship and her school will receive a $50,000 Google for Education technology grant.
“Audrey is an incredible young lady whose creativity, combined with her unbelievable talents, makes her an incredible artist,” said her principal, Roger Bloom.
During the awards reception, Ryan Germick, who leads Google’s doodle team, said he was impressed by the growth Audrey showed from last year’s contest, in which she finished as a national finalist.
Audrey’s mother, Hongmei Weng, 40, who has been watching her daughter draw since she was 2 years old, said seeing her win was “overwhelming.”
“It was like a dream come true.”
With Darran Simon