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Editor's blog: Colorado "doodler" state finalist in Google contest

OK Colorado, time to vote for our hometown boy (by May 10!) who is a state finalist in the national Doodle 4 Google competition.

Jimmy Ferguson, 14, a seventh-grader at Bayfield Middle School located near the Four Corners in southwestern Colorado, submitted a doodle he would like to see as the banner of the ubiquitous Google homepage – you know, the page viewed by millions every day.

Of 114,000 entries from across the U.S., 50 finalists were selected. Now, he and his family get a trip to New York City for a final event on May 17. And, his groovy doodle will be displayed at the New York Public Library.

For a kid who has only visited the metropolis of Denver four times – and who has never stepped foot in the Big Apple – what a trip it will be. He might even get a Wacom digital design tablet.

So, how did a young man from a small Colorado town win so big and become the pride of Bayfield?

How a mom nudged her artsy son

Well, he’s always been into art. And he likes computer gaming, too. But this is where the role of a parent comes in. His mom, Lynn, wanted to push her son more in art – beyond the experiences he would get in his school’s art class. She told him he had to enter some competitions this year. But she knew he might not listen to her if she encouraged him to enter Doodle 4 Google. (We parents are so sneaky, sometimes, aren’t we?). So, she talked to his art teacher, who gave him the hard sell.

Jimmy took the bait and drew a picture under the theme, “If I could travel in time I’d visit…” Jimmy picked “the future.”

He learned Wednesday he won. And so did his entire school with a balloon-filled, Google-T-shirted all-school assembly.

His idea came from his fascination with futuristic technology.

“I really like drawing robot stuff,” Jimmy said.

It should not surprise you that his mom might even be more excited about this news than her son.

“I was over the moon about this,” mom said. “I was just happy he did it.”

So, what happens if he wins the national contest? He receives a $30,000 college scholarship and his school gets a $50,000 technology grant, his picture will appear for 24 hours on the Google homepage on May 18. Oh, and his artwork will appear on a limited edition of Crayola’s 64-crayon box.

You can vote for Jimmy through May 10. ( Let’s all give the Colorado kid an edge.

History of Google’s eye-catching “doodles”

Google’s first “doodle” was published in 1998 when Google founders Larry and Sergey were attending the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stick figure drawing behind the second “o” in the logo to let users know they were “out of the office.” (This is what’s nice about being the founder of a company…)

Google reports that its users were surprised to see a change to the standard and simple Google logo “but enjoyed it and the playful nature of, what was then, a very young company.”

Since then there have been more than 1,000 doodles on Google’s homepages around the world celebrating characters from Big Bird to Batman. Some doodles run globally (across all the Google homepages) and others are specific to just one country. Sometimes there are even multiple ones running at the same time, so our users in France may see one while in Japan they see another.

The doodles have become more complex. Check out The Anniversary of Pinocchio’s Publication. In 2011, users got to explore 20,000 leagues under the sea with Jules Verne and create and record a tune on the Les Paul guitar. If you didn’t see these “doodles” when they were published, the Les Paul guitar is worth playing with.

Thanks to Google for cultivating creativity, the key to our collective future. And congratulations to Jimmy Ferguson.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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