Google’s search ends at local school; Addison boy wins national contest

VERGENNES — Eleven-year-old Addison resident Louis Provencher spent plenty of time this past weekend playing his favorite video games, including “Clash of the Clans.”
It was a little more fun than usual because he could load the games on his brand-new computer tablet, which he got on Friday from Google. That’s right, representatives from the Internet behemoth on Friday morning surprised Provencher in a school-wide assembly at the Champlain Valley Christian School in Vergennes.
Provencher learned then that his work “Nature Walk at D.A.R. Park” had been selected Vermont winner of the eighth annual Doodle 4 Google competition. In the contest, around 100,000 K-12 students across the country created their own Google “doodle” — the colorful renderings of the Google name on the Internet search engine’s home page.
Officials from Provencher’s school had been keeping the secret for three weeks, and Provencher said he was stunned that his series of photos spelling the company’s name had won.
“I’m like, what are the chances of that? There are tons of people out there, tons of people. When they said my name, I’m like, what the?” Provencher said. “I was like, confused, happy, and I have no clue.”
This was the first year that the use of non-traditional media was encouraged in the Doodle 4 Google contest. Google said a quarter of submissions used materials like clay, papier-mâché, leaves and — citing Provencher’s work in its press release — picnic tables (part of a picnic table makes up a G in Provencher’s rendering of “Google”).
The theme of the contest was “What makes me … me.”
Provencher’s fifth-grade art class was assigned the project. He said his favorite subjects are math, reading and physical education, but not art.
“I don’t like drawing or painting, so, I’m like, what’s the easiest thing to do? Take pictures. OK,” he said.
Provencher also admitted his first instinct was to design something related to video games, but grandmother Wendy Provencher, with whom he lives while his mom serves in the U.S. Navy, vetoed that suggestion.
Louis then came up with the D.A.R. State Park along Lake Champlain in Addison, which he and his grandmother often visit in warmer weather.
“I’m like, OK, but we’ve been taking nature walks at the D.A.R. Park. Let’s do that,” he said.
Using his grandmother’s cell phone, they took pictures of objects that represented each of the letters, with some harder to find than others.
“I was just skipping rocks, and I saw the tree, and I was like, hey, that one’s shaped like an L,” Provencher said. “Then we found this big pile of leaves. And I just cleared out the area, dragged leaves, and made the first G out of leaves.”
The Os are a tree stump and a bird’s nest, the second G is the picnic table (which Provencher credits his grandmother for finding) and the E is the end of a stockade fence.
Provencher finished the project back at school.
“Grandma sent the pictures to the art teacher, and I put those pictures into GoogleDocs and arranged them like they’re supposed to be,” he said.
He was not exactly confident in his project.
“I just did it for the fun of it hoping I would win,” Provencher said. “I actually thought my piece was a piece of junk, kind of.”
Now he has a little more faith, and there are more prizes at stake.
 The winning student and national finalists will travel to Mountain View, Calif., to meet and workshop with Google’s team of professional doodlers and see what it takes to launch a Doodle on the Google homepage. National finalists can also nominate a teacher who has inspired them to come along on the trip. 
The national winner will take home a $30,000 college scholarship and his or her school will receive a $50,000 Google for Education grant toward the establishment and improvement of a computer lab or technology program.
The winners are determined by online voting at Voting will remain open until Feb. 22. Google will announce five national finalists and one of them as the national winner on March 21 — and the winner’s doodle will go live on that day.
Champlain Valley Christian School is already a winner — Google rewarded it with $2,500 of art supplies and T-shirts at Friday’s assembly.
As far as his chances in the next round, Provencher knows the odds are better now than they were when his entry was one in 100,000.
“There are like 10 in my age group,” he said. “And if I win my age group, I’m going to be going against the age groups combined, and I’m not sure about that, because there are actually some really nice ones in the 10th through 12th grade.”
Provencher said his mom will alert her shipmates, while his grandmother has a friend “who has friends all over the world.”
Plus, he said, “Everyone at the school knows me, and they can tell their family members, and their family members can spread it out from there and it can get bigger and bigger,” he said, adding, “I’m actually kind of famous on Facebook, too.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
CHAMPLAIN VALLEY CHRISTIAN School students sit in Google shirts during an assembly last Friday morning to announce the Vermont winner of the Doodle 4 Google contest. Louis Provencher, a fifth-grader at the school, was the winner.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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