Germantown teenager creates search engine to help a family member and charities

Sunmee Huh of Germantown created a search engine after she noticed her grandfather had trouble telling the difference between regular search results and sponsored ones.
Sunmee Huh of Germantown created a search engine after she noticed her grandfather had trouble telling the difference between regular search results and sponsored ones. (Tin Nguyen/the Gazette)
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By Nesa Nourmohammadi
The Gazette
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunmee Huh does not want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

When she created the search engine Good50, her intention was not to strike it rich or create an Internet phenomenon like Facebook, which Zuckerberg founded. Huh has little interest in pursuing computer science as a career.

All she wanted to do was help her family.

The soft-spoken Richard Montgomery High School junior saw the difficulties her 82-year-old grandfather, Sam Auh, a stroke survivor, endured when using the Web.

"It was difficult for him to see the font," said Huh, 16, of Germantown. "He had trouble telling the difference between regular search results and sponsored ones."

That prompted Huh to create a user-friendly search engine that would cater to senior citizens. With her family's support, she began working on Good50.com over her winter break from school in December. Her sister Dahlia, 12, provided design suggestions and edited copy, and her father, Chang, paid for the publication of a news release.

Good50 was launched two weeks later in January.

Huh designed the search engine using Google Custom Search API, an application programming interface offered by search engine giant Google. She said her search engine's name comes from two sources: "Good" refers to "good cause," or the charity efforts associated with the search engine, and "50" refers to the minimum age of the people Huh thinks would benefit from her endeavor. She sells advertising space on the site, a portion of the proceeds of which she keeps and a portion of which goes to Google, she said.

For every 50 visits to Good50, Huh pledges five cents to a featured charity. When the site raises $50, the funds will be donated. The first charity is the American Red Cross, for Haiti earthquake relief. Good50 has had 7,500 hits, but because of Google's user agreement and Adsense program, Huh said she cannot divulge how much money she has raised for charity.

Good50's defining feature is its font size capabilities. By holding down CTRL + (zoom in) and CTRL - (zoom out), or using the drop-down zoom feature on the upper-right-hand side of the search results screen, users can increase or decrease text size without changing browser settings.

The features are a result of Huh's concern not only for her grandfather's health issues, but those related to computer usage, notably Computer Vision Syndrome. Symptoms of the syndrome include blurred vision, eye strain, headaches and neck pain, according to the American Optometric Association.

Huh said because teens and children spend large amounts of time staring at computer screens, Good50 could benefit computer users of all ages.


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