GRANITE QUARRY — When second-grader Aryman “A.J.” Jana was asked to draw his “best day ever,” he drew a picture of the day his little sister was born.
His celebration of that moment could soon be put on the Google homepage for millions of people to see and share.
The Granite Quarry Elementary School student also is in the running to win a $30,000 scholarship for himself and a $50,000 technology grant for his school.
A.J. was recognized by Google representatives Wednesday during an assembly at Granite Quarry Elementary. His version of the Google logo was selected as one of 50 state winners from more than 130,000 submitted nationwide for the Doodle 4 Google contest.
When he and his parents walked in to the auditorium, the whole school burst into applause, cheers and whoops. As he suddenly realized what was happening, A.J. smiled shyly and took his seat.
“I was surprised and proud of myself,” he said.
Using the theme “My Best Day Ever …” for inspiration, students were asked to redesign the Google logo into one of the “doodles” that frequently grace the search engine home page. The contest is open to students in grades kindergarten through 12.
The public is now able to vote for their favorite doodle from the 50 state winners and help select five national finalists (one per grade group). Voting will be open through May 10 at http://www.google.com/doodle4google/vote.html.
On Wednesday, A.J. wore a T-shirt he was given with his Google doodle printed on the front.
A capital “G” represents a feeding pillow, and the first “o” is the belly of a pink teddy bear. A.J. himself, with arms raised over his head and holding red balloons, forms second the letter “o.”
Lying in a hospital bed, his mother cradles his newborn sister in the shape of a lowercase “g.” The letter “l” takes the form of a hospital saline stand, and the “e” is a baby stroller.
“To me, to have a sister means to have somebody to play with,” A.J. said after the assembly. “If it’s a brother, you’ll just fight.”
Along with the rest of the state winners, A.J. will travel to New York for a May 22 awards ceremony at Google’s New York City office. There, the company will announce the five national finalists and name one of them as the national winner.
The winning student’s doodle will be displayed on the Google homepage on May 23. The winner will also receive a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school.
All 50 state winners also will have their doodles displayed in a special exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York from May 22 to July 14.
A.J. said his mother, Ajanta Roy, told him about the Google 4 Doodle contest last year. The 7-year-old budding artist said he normally likes to draw landscapes, especially mountains and glaciers.
His parents have known for a couple of weeks that A.J. is a state winner, but they kept it a surprise until Wednesday.
Roy held A.J.’s inspiration, 16-month-old Aryana Janaroy, in her lap at the assembly.
“I’m proud of him. It’s exciting,” she said. “He loves his sister very much.”
A.J.’s father, Srikanta Jana, said he didn’t know much about the contest when his son entered it, so he was “shocked” when he found out how big his accomplishment was.
“I’m surprised, and proud also,” Jana said. “He did a really great job.”
He said he hopes people from North Carolina and across the nation will see A.J.’s artwork and vote for it.
“I think he came up with a good idea from his true heart,” Jana said. “He has been waiting for a long time to have a sister.”
During the assembly, Google representatives Dave DeAngelis and James MacKenzie first gave a child-friendly demonstration of some of the company’s Internet products, including search, maps and a language translator.
Sometimes, they said, fun drawings and images are shown on Google.com instead of its normal logo. Those are called Google doodles, and each year, students are invited to create their own and submit them in a contest.
“People like David and I sat there and judged all of these wonderful pieces,” MacKenzie said. “They were beautiful and exciting, and it was just an amazing experience.”
According to the Doodle 4 Google website, submissions are judged based on artistic merit, creativity and theme communication. Guest judges this year include journalist and TV personality Katie Couric, gymnast Aly Raisman, Jim Henson Company Chairman Brian Henson and Chris Sanders, writer and director of the movies “Lilo and Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”
“Today, all 50 finalists are being announced - one in every state across the country - in schools like Granite Quarry,” DeAngelis said. “The winner from North Carolina is not from Raleigh. They’re not from Wilmington. They’re not even from Charlotte. They’re from right here in Salisbury.”
DeAngelis and MacKenzie then pulled back a curtain to reveal A.J’s drawing, announcing him as a Doodle 4 Google state winner.
Principal Vicki Booker said A.J. is an excellent student, and finding out he was a state winner in the contest “took our breath away.”
If A.J. is the national winner, she said, Granite Quarry Elementary would use a $50,000 grant to make sure all of its classrooms are equipped with up-to-date technology and given access to more books.
“This is a really big deal,” Booker said during the assembly. “He is in the second grade, and he is representing the entire state of North Carolina. But more exciting than that, he is representing Granite Quarry Elementary.”