Huntsville-Proud: New American Girl Doll Breaks Through the STEM Scene

Kafui Sakyi-Addo, Writer, Photographer

Huntsville. A city famous for Bridge Street, the fact that you could stop 100 people in the city and chances are that 90 of them would have PhDs, and, most notably, our Space and Rocket Center. Huntsville’s STEM field has been flourishing for years, and now, Huntsville has a new accomplishment to boast, one that could positively influence the lives of many.

Meet Luciana Vega, American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year. Luciana is an 11-year-old of Chilean descent who is full of creative energy, a positive and collaborative spirit, and who aspires to be the first person to walk on Mars. The books follow Luciana’s journey as she wins a scholarship to Space Camp in Huntsville and gets one step closer to achieving her dream, all while learning how to work with people that have different mindsets, and stay true to herself.

Many see Luci as a positive influence on young girls thinking of pursuing a career in a STEM field. The American Girl company has stated that, “Encouraging girls in STEM matters in more immediate ways, […] and Luciana brings visibility, engaging stories and experiences, encouragement, and valuable lessons to girls at a time in their lives when they are learning that they hold within themselves infinite potential, no matter where their interests and talents lead them.”

The American Girl company will likely inspire many young girls to pursue careers in STEM, even with something as ‘simple’ as having more representation in fields that are historically less pursued by females. Bob Jones engineering teacher Jessye Gaines said, “I think it’s all about allowing girls to kind of see themselves going down different paths; so not necessarily everyone needs to be an astronaut, but [it’s about] just giving girls the opportunity to visualize and see that that’s a possibility.”

A great deal of research went into the creation of this character and her backstory. Erin Teagan, a scientist and the author of the Luciana books said that she attended Space Camp twice while in the process of writing the first book, “Luciana”, and actually went scuba-diving while in the process of writing the second book, “Luciana: Braving the Deep.” Gaines said, “I am really proud of American Girl for teaming up with NASA scientists and NASA engineers and astronauts to create her, so it’s not a pretend version of an astronaut or like a goofy version that’s not really there, […] they went all the way through.” One employee at the Space and Rocket Center who agrees with this, said, “We’re very excited to have [Luciana] here, and our CEO, Deborah Barnhart, worked in conjunction [in] helping them set it up […] so they contacted us and worked with us.”

While Luciana is a lovable character, some who are interested in buying the doll are finding it slightly difficult to cope with the price tag. While Luciana and her first book are only $115, attempting to buy her and all of the available accessories brings up the cost significantly. Chenoa Gentle, a junior, said, “I’d have to work 118 hours at McDonald’s to buy the doll and all of the accessories.” Regardless of the cost, Luciana seems to have left us all feeling, as Gaines stated, “Huntsville-proud.”

Luciana and select merchandise are available at the Space and Rocket Center gift shop, or on the American Girl website.