Hundreds of juniors wearing Google t-shirts flooded the auditorium at Burnsville High School Tuesday morning, but the reason for the impromptu assembly was a mystery.
After a half-hour presentation on the magic of Google by two company employees, they learned why they were celebrating: Junior Paul Nong was named Minnesota's winner of the 2014 "Doodle 4 Google" contest.
Nong will fly to Google's headquarters in California, all expenses paid, on May 21 to find out if his drawing, titled "The Dream Machine," makes it into the top five nationally.
The winning illustration will be featured on the Google homepage as one of their highly-recognizable Google Doodles.
"I was really nervous and I thought it was all a bit too much, because I haven't even won anything yet," said Nong. "If I make it to the top five, I'll be happy."
His entry, chosen from more than 100,000, was done in colored pencil and charcoal and features two detailed silhouettes of people sleeping on each end. In the middle are hot air balloons, people flying through the air and ribbons of color. He then manipulated the drawing, which took nine hours to create, using a computer program.
This year's theme was " "If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place." Nong said his invention, a dream machine, would make use of all the time humans spend slumbering: "I wanted to make something that would help us innovate when we're asleep," he said.
Nong, who has been drawing since he was five, said his history teacher urged him to enter the Google contest after seeing his artistic talent. He had never entered -- let alone won -- an art contest before.
He recently enlisted in the Army National Guard and eventually wants to pursue an art degree so he can be a concept artist for movies and video games, he said.
Burnsville High School associate principal Chris Bellmont said the school thought an assembly to celebrate Nong's accomplishment with his fellow juniors would be "really cool."
"This is just a whole other type of learning that just took place," he said of the presentation. "Hopefully the message is, until you try something, you don't know what you're capable of achieving."
The winner will be chosen by tallying up online votes. Voting is open to the public until May 9 at https://www.google.com/doodle4google/.