— -- American Girl's 2018 girl of the year is Luciana Vega, an 11-year-old "aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars," the wildly popular doll makers said in a statement unveiling the new character.
"Luciana is our first character that's really immersed in STEM," Rebecca Dekuiper, a designer at American Girl, said in a video about the making of Luciana. "We've had STEM products before, but we really wanted to do a whole character to show girls that STEM is cool."
American Girl worked with Dr. Megan McArthur Behnken, a NASA Astronaut; Dr. Ellen Stofan, former NASA chief scientist; Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center; and Maureen O'Brien, the manager of strategic alliances at NASA, in order to develop Luciana's background story and product line.
"I was able to follow Lucy through all of her story and adventures, and provide feedback from an astronaut's perspective on the authenticity of her story and the activities that she participated in," Behnken said. "I've been in space and fixed the Hubble space telescope, so I have some perspective on how we use robotics, how we train for robotics."
Katy Dickson, the president of American Girl, called Luciana "a champion of STEM and a natural-born leader," in a statement announcing her as the brand's 2018 girl of the year.
"Luciana is a role model for today’s girls -- empowering them to defy stereotypes, embrace risks and failures, and chart their own course in life -- whatever the goal," Dickson added.
A three-book series about her character, written by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic, follows Luciana's story as she wins a scholarship to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
The 18-inch doll, featuring brown eyes and dark hair, and full product line including "STEM-inspired outfits and accessories" will launch in stores, online and through American Girl's catalog on Jan. 1.