Who Designed Today's Google Doodle? A Fifth-Grader, Audrey Zhang, Believe It Or Not

What if one of the doodles made in the margins of your elementary school notebook made it to the Google homepage? For one fifth grader, that dream has become a reality: Today's Google Doodle showcases artwork from Audrey Zhang, an 11-year-old from Levittown, New York. Zhang beat out more than 100,000 submissions in the 7th Annual Doodle 4 Google Competition to have her work featured on the coveted Google homepage. The theme for this year's competition was "Back to Mother Nature," inspiring environmentally conscious pictures that seek to make the world a better place.

Google's abstract for the 2014 competition asked students in kindergarten through the 12th grade to imagine inventions that could help the world thrive:

Before there was an airplane, there were doodles of cool flying machines. And before there was a submarine, there were doodles of magical underwater sea explorers. Since the beginning of time, ideas big and small, practical and playful, have started out as doodles.

Zhang's colorful doodle depicts an intricate water purification system that blends in with its surrounding environment. "I came up with the design when I learned not everyone has clean water. My invention will clean water at a fast pace," Zhang explains in a Google video.

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Zhang was crowned the grand prize winner at an awards ceremony at Google headquarters last month. The tech company invited 50 state winners to its Mountain View, California complex to partake in the ceremony.

For the first time in contest history, homepage doodlers at Google animated Zhang's winning design. They let Zhang sit in on the animation sessions, asking for her input and advice. She even did some of the animating herself.

Gracing Google homepage for the day is not the only prize Zhang will receive for her stunning doodle; the fifth grader also won a $30,000 college scholarship, a Google Chromebook computer, an Android tablet, and a T-shirt printed with her winning doodle. Zhang's school will also receive a $50,000 Google for Education grant.

Although the contest only allows for one grand prize winner, many other students didn't leave Google headquarters empty handed. The 50 state winners were each given an Android tablet and a T-shirt with his or her doodle on it. Additionally, Google chose four national finalists, who were each awarded a $5,000 college scholarship.

According to contest rules, the doodles were judged on artistic merit, creativity, and theme communication. Google picked 250 state finalists in all, and their doodles are currently on display on a Google+ gallery. Here are some of the top drawings:

While many of the top doodles depicted new technological advancements, several contestants took a simpler route. Esther Park of Delaware called her doodle "Friendship," saying: "To make the world a better place doesn’t mean we need more technology, it needs more friendships."

Yanming Wen of Pennsylvania also had an uplifting and profound take on the contest theme: "I feel like the world would be a better place if one could invent a way of understanding others' viewpoints - the girl here is using these glasses to view the world from the little boy's perspective." Something Google Glass developers should look into, perhaps?

According to Google, the homepage doodle tradition began in 1998. One of the earliest doodle's was a turkey on Thanksgiving, followed the next year by pumpkins on Halloween. The Google doodle has since expanded to honor world leaders, historical figures, international holidays, significant events and great artists and writers. Some of the most recent doodle's include the 25th anniversary of the first free elections in Poland, the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival, Rachel Carson's 107th birthday, and Denmark National Day.

Images: Google