About 33,000 students across the country submitted creative adaptations of the Google logo in hopes of winning the annual contest and a local third-grader was one of the finalists.
This year's theme is "If I Could Do Anything, I Would..." and if Palo Alto third-grader Anna Yu could do anything, she would save polar bears. Anna, one of the two state finalists for California, drew a doodle of a girl holding an umbrella over three polar bears crouched on icy letters. A student at Hoover Elementary School, Anna was one of 400 state finalists selected by Google employees.
"There is too much sun shining on the ice for the polar bears and now they are dying," she wrote to her teacher, Polly Wingfield.
Wingfield, who encouraged students to enter the contest, said she was not in it for the prizes.
Eight-year-old Anna, whom Wingfield described as "spirited, very bright, (and) kind," may have picked up some of her environmentalist zeal in the classroom.
"We put a huge emphasis on taking care of the environment and trying to give children the opportunity to learn what they can do," Wingfield said.
Both Anna and San Ramon resident Eric Li, California's other state finalist in the grade K-3 age group, take extracurricular drawing classes with the same teacher.
Google executives chose the national winner after an expert panel picked 40 regional finalists and held an online public vote to narrow it down to four.
The creations of all 40 finalists will be part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. Mackenzie, the winner, received a $15,000 college scholarship, a $25,000 technology grant for her school and a laptop. She is a student at El Dorado Springs in Missouri.
Google has held the doodling competition annually since 2008 in the United States.
"We're really encouraging kids to think big and dream big," Google representative Anne Espiritu said. "Those kinds of thoughts turn into big innovations. As you know, Google started as just a small idea, and we've come a long way."
While most corporate logos are sacrosanct, Google has been playing with its trademark since 1999, when founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page placed a stick figure behind a letter O to signify that they were "out of the office" for Burning Man
Ryan Germick was one of the minds behind the latest doodle, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of the PAC-MAN video game. "I love my job," said Germick, who joined Google over three years ago after graduating from Parsons The New School for Design. Doodling has been his main duty for over two years.
He and the other designers meet regularly to decide which events will receive doodles — innovative ideas that are fun for viewers make the grade.
"We want to make sure that we keep the homepage a place where users can go and be surprised," Germick said
The Doodle 4 Google contest is Germick's favorite time of the year — although he jokes that it threatens his job.
"A big challenge for me as an adult making art is to get back in the mindset of being a kid," he said. "It reminds me of what's important in the creative process and, in a lot of ways, what's important about life."