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‘Doodle 4 Google’ winner kept her sunny side up

Grace Moon’s perfect world is a place full of bright colors and sunshine, a place without violence or natural disasters, a place of peace and happiness. And on Thursday, it was a place that 100 million people got to visit.Moon, a sixth-grader at Canyon Middle School in Castro Valley, Calif., beat out 16,000 entries from around the country to win the “Doodle 4 Google” contest sponsored by the
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Grace Moon’s perfect world is a place full of bright colors and sunshine, a place without violence or natural disasters, a place of peace and happiness. And on Thursday, it was a place that 100 million people got to visit.

Moon, a sixth-grader at Canyon Middle School in Castro Valley, Calif., beat out 16,000 entries from around the country to win the “Doodle 4 Google” contest sponsored by the Internet search-engine titan. There were prizes involved — a $10,000 scholarship and new laptop computer for her and a $25,000 technology grant to her school — but the big reward was having her design, “Up in the Clouds,” grace the Google homepage, visited by 100 million people a day.

“It feels great because you know you’re the only person out of 16,000 people,” the 12-year-old said Thursday from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Moon said her design grew out of childhood anxieties.

‘An ideal place’

“When I was little, I used to see all these signs of missing children, and I was really afraid I’d be separated from my parents,” she told Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker and Natalie Morales. “Later, I found out there’s more fearful things in the world. So I thought of an ideal place that could have no violence, disasters or discrimination. So I drew this place on paper using bright colors and various tones.”

The contest inspired a flood of creativity from students in kindergarten through 12th grade, who submitted designs celebrating a wide range of themes, from peace and the environment to architecture and pure whimsy, such as one entry featuring a flying pig. Forty finalists were chosen by a panel of judges and Google employees, broken down into 10 geographic regions and four age groups based on grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Moon’s winning design was chosen by an online vote of some 4 million Google users.

Moon said she is an admirer of Leonardo da Vinci because of his ability to combine her two favorite subjects — math and art. She said she’s thinking of careers in either medicine or engineering.

‘What if?’

“Grace’s was really remarkable, because it really embraced the colorfulness of Google, and also our theme — asking the question ‘What if?’ ” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for search and user experience.

All 40 finalists won a trip to Google’s headquarters, where they spent the day touring the facilities, working at “imagination stations” and getting a drawing lesson from Dennis Hwang, Google’s doodler and webmaster.

Mayer said that Google has run a “Doodle 4 Google” contest in the United Kingdom, but this was the first time the company had tried it in the United States. In addition to rewarding artistic talent, Google also used the contest as a way to learn what sorts of subjects inspire its users.

See all the finalists in the “Doodle 4 Google” contest here.