Middleton-based American Girl has set its sights higher than ever for its 2018 Girl of the Year doll, who dreams of being the first person on Mars.
In the story revolving around the doll’s introduction on Monday, Luciana Vega is an 11-year-old girl of Chilean descent who wants to be an astronaut and explore space.
American Girl said it worked with a NASA team — astronaut Megan McArthur Behnken; former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan; Deborah Barnhart, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; and Maureen O’Brien, NASA manager of strategic alliances — to make sure Luciana’s story, and the accessories and clothing that will be sold with her, accurately reflect the science involved.
A group of American Girl editors and product designers also visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston and Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
Katy Dickson, American Girl president, said Luciana is a role model for girls, “empowering them to defy stereotypes and embrace risks that will teach them about failure and success as they chart their own course in life.”
The 18-inch Luciana doll, which comes with a book, will be available for one year, starting Monday, for $115. Luciana’s story is told in books written by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic.
“In working with NASA, we were inspired by their Mars exploration program,” American Girl spokeswoman Susan Jevens said. “Luciana’s desire to go to Mars and venture beyond our current understanding of space empowers girls to push boundaries, defy stereotypes, and see failure as an opportunity for learning.”
American Girl is touting science-oriented messages through interactive science demonstrations at Luciana debut events at American Girl stores; by sponsoring 20 scholarships to attend Space Camp; and by funding Blast Off to Discovery, an educational program aimed at third- through fifth-grade students created through a partnership with Scholastic, NASA and Space Camp, that will be available Jan. 31 on www.scholastic.com. American Girl and Scholastic also are co-sponsoring a sweepstakes with a grand prize of a family trip to Space Camp.
Jevens said American Girl is spending more than $200,000 on the education program and the sweepstakes.
Parent company Mattel has said American Girl’s revenue for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30 was down 30 percent from the same period last year. For the first nine months of 2017, American Girl reported sales of $234 million.
The upscale doll, book and accessories company has about 470 employees in Middleton.