James Pang, a Clarksville Elementary School second grader, is Maryland’s representative in the national Doodle for Google contest.
This week, doodlers and their fans have been working to get votes in the hopes of winning the grand prize, which includes a $50,000 technology package for the student’s school and a $30,000 college scholarship, as well as the honor of the national title and getting their doodle on Google’s homepage. Voting, available at doodles.google.com/d4g/vote, closes at 2:59 a.m. Saturday.
Since 2008, Google has hosted a contest for students in grades kindergarten through 12 to use art to design their version of the Google logo. This year’s theme is “I am strong because,” focusing on inner strength.
“First I thought that it was impossible because I’m not really physically strong,” the 8-year-old said.
Before getting to this stage, James was selected by guest judges and Google doodlers as the best doodle from the state of Maryland.
James is one of 54 state and territory winners who could be a national finalist. Five national finalists will be chosen based on votes and announced May 24. Then a panel of Google executives will choose one of the finalists to be the national winner, which will be announced in June.
The national winner’s doodle will be featured on Google.com for a day. The students are broken into five different grade groups, and James is competing in the grades K-3 category.
Eric Pang, James’ father, said he encouraged his son to enter the contest after seeing how much time the second grader was spending in front of screens over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pang said his son has turned to meditation during the pandemic as a way to help him calm down and fall asleep quicker.
“I told him there’s more than physical strength — there’s mental strength,” Pang said. “Strength doesn’t just come from just the outer but the inner.”
James said he took that lesson from his father and put it into his art.
James’ doodle features him sitting and meditating with a rainbow over his head. The globe featured in one part of his drawing was inspired by the moments when his mind drifts and he imagines he’s traveling the world instead of being in his Clarksville home, James said. The dog at the forefront is a replica of his neighbor’s dog. The rocket ship is an ode to his favorite subject: science.
With the help of art teacher Jodie Wang, founder of Wang Art Studio, James went through 20 versions of his Google doodle before landing on the final one.
Wang, of Clarksville, who has been teaching James for three years, said she consulted with him virtually throughout the draft process.
“I think it’s very important that he expresses or shows us a way to self-adjust to a new environment,” Wang said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “But in the meantime, he can find the inner peace for himself. Even adults, it’s something we can learn”
She advised James to tell his story through his art, something he’s personally experienced.
“My final drawing shows how I am strong, my inner peace and my mental strength,” James said.