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Smithton student named finalist in Google contest

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 5:00 p.m. CDT; updated 6:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Stella Pruitt poses for a photo with her parents, Michelle and David, after an assembly Tuesday morning at Smithton Middle School. Pruitt designed the Google logo seen here and is a regional finalist in the Doodle 4 Google competition. If she wins, Pruitt will receive a $15,000 college scholarship and Smithton Middle School will receive a $25,000 computer lab.

COLUMBIA — A sixth-grader at Smithton Middle School is one of 40 finalists in a competition to design a Google logo. She was visited by Google representatives in an assembly Tuesday.

Google selected Stella Pruitt's original design from more than 33,000 applicants.

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The Doodle 4 Google competition, now in its fourth year, invites students from kindergarten to 12th grade to create their own Google logo. This year’s theme was “If I Could Do Anything, I Would …”

“You may want to build a movie theater on the moon or bring the dodo bird out of extinction,” said Google representative Cat Rondeau at the assembly at Smithton Middle School. “There are lots of things you can do, and it is all based on inspiration.”

Google employees selected 400 semi-finalists, and then a panel of 12 expert judges, which included illustrators from D.C. Comics, LEGO and the lead animator from Toy Story 3, chose the top 40 designs. Pruitt, 12, was chosen in the fourth- to sixth-grade category for a six-state region. Her design incorporates a sunburst, recycling symbol, water drop and wind turbine.

“I love the outdoors so much and had seen environmental issues in the news,” Pruitt said.

Her mother, Michelle Pruitt, said Stella has “a real empathy for nature.”

Connie Hayward, who teaches the Extended Educational Experiences gifted program at the school, assigned the design competition to all of her students, but she could only submit six. The rest hang on her classroom wall.

“I liked the creativity this project brought,” Hayward said. “It’s also effective; they had such in-depth knowledge about what their passions are.”

Stella Pruitt drew four to five sketches of her design before she was confident that it represented her message, Hayward said. Pruitt embraced the project with enthusiasm and said she enjoys Hayward's class.

"I love Mrs. Hayward. She's one of my favorite teachers," Pruitt said. "She's always pushing me to do my best and is a wonderful teacher."

Other students drew logos reflecting themes such as solving world health issues, playing music and celebrating diversity.

“One of the nice things about Doodle 4 Google kids is that they focus on things outside of themselves,” said Miles Johnson, a Google representative.

The school found out only a week ago, so it organized the assembly on short notice, Hayward said. At the assembly, Pruitt explained the elements in her drawing. Hayward and the Google employees also spoke.

If Pruitt wins the competition, she will receive a $15,000 college scholarship and the school would receive a $25,000 computer lab.

“We can always use more computers,” Principal Craig Martin said. “We’d like to get to a one-to-one ratio point with the kids.”

Google will also showcase all 40 designs in the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Pruitt and her father, along with the other finalists, will fly to New York City to visit the Google offices and be honored in an awards ceremony.

“Stella does writing, she’s an artist and is a good friend,” Hayward said. “She has high expectations for herself.”

You can vote for the best designs on the competition's website.


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