16-year-old Maryland teen creates Good50 search engine for older web users

16-year-old Sunmee Huh

I hate to say it, but that “Model Minority” stereotype is based on reality sometimes. Some young Asian Americans are just darned smart, hard-working good students. Take Sunmee Huh, a 16-year-old Maryland teenager, for instance. Last year, she noticed her grandfather struggling to use a search engine, and had she an idea. She decided to build her own search engine, designed for older, tired eyes, so her grandfather could search the Web for information easily, without straining to read the text or messing with his browser to make the type larger.

She started with the most popular search engine, Google, and used its backend programming to drive her version. She then enlisted the graphic arts help of her younger (!) sister Dahlia to make everything look nice, called the search engine Good50.

16-year-old Sunmee Huh created the Good50 search engine for her grandfather.In the process she made it super easy to change font size as well as background color (the black background, she explains in Good50’s About Us page, is a “high contrast” version to help people with poor vision that also happens to use less energy to display, so it’s a “green” option).

“Designed with the public’s health in mind, Good50 has pre-set the search box to a larger size and gives the option to adjust to a larger font in the search results,” the About Us page explains. “These features of Good50 will reduce eye strain and help to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Some possible symptoms of CVS include headaches, dry and/or red eyes, fatigue, double vision, and neck or back pain.”

Although she’s reaching out for publicity top spread the word about Good50, Sunmee isn’t in it for the money. She has Google ads on the search engine but refused to add the “sponsored links” that are often at the top of Google search results, figuring those ads are just confusing for Internet newbies — and her grandfather.

And, she also pledged to donate at least 5 cents for every 50 visits to the search engine, from the Google advertising revenue she collects. In April, she made her first donation: $50 to the Red Cross for Haiti relief. In May, she sent a $100 donation to Meals on Wheels.

Good50’s not just for people over 50 (like me… hence the name). As the About Us page explains, “Because of its unique features, Good50 is beneficial for everyone including those who are ages 50+ as well as school-aged children, and people with low vision.” To make it kid-friendly, Sunmee turned on by default Google’s “Safe Search” feature to filter out adult websites and content.

The brilliant simplicity and utter coolness of this project caught the attention of The Washington Post, which wrote up a nice feature about the search engine in February, as well as AARP, which touted Good50 to its over-50 readership.

There are some limitations: Good50 doesn’t do everything Google.com can — Sunmee hasn’t added the ability to search for images, or blogs, or a section for Google News, for instance. But it’s exactly what she had in mind when she was inspired by her grandfather — and easy-to-use search engine for older users, with common-sense features.

But considering that software development is not at all related to what Sunmee hopes to study in college, it’s a pretty stunning achievement. What’s in store after high school for the young Internet entrepreneur? She thinks she’ll study medicine. Dang … more proof that the Model Minority stereotype isn’t always myth.

Still, it’s impossible not to be impressed by Sunmee Huh and her Good50 search engine.

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