Beyond Barbie: Students Design Doll That Sports a Nobel Prize, Not a Bikini

The first Miss Possible figurine hopes to inspire girls to get into STEM fields.
Aug 19, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

When Mattel launched Entrepreneur Barbie last spring, the company ensured the doll was ready to “lean in” to the business world with a smartphone and chic professional clothing. It was a far cry from Barbie’s bikini past, but no matter how the figure is dressed up, there’s no denying it’s the same iconic doll, complete with a body that’s unattainable unless a woman has serious plastic surgery.

What if there were dolls that encouraged girls to dream big while exposing them to the notable accomplishments of real-life women—specifically, a woman like Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie?

That’s where Miss Possible comes in: It's a line of dolls being developed by Supriya Hobbs, a 22-year-old who graduated from the University of Illinois in May with a degree in chemical engineering, and Janna Eaves, a 21-year-old senior at the school who is majoring in materials science and engineering. According to the project’s website, the duo “wants to shake up what opportunities girls see for themselves by showing them women who succeeded in many fields.”

"We wanted to help more girls see engineering as an option," Hobbs told the Chicago Tribune. "What had inspired us to be engineers was this idea of wanting to save the world. There are a lot of ways to do that. That sort of became our focus: How do we get girls to dream bigger?"

One night in January 2013 they were in a dorm room discussing the lack of women majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math. The two didn’t see many of their female peers in their STEM classes on campus. That’s when they came up with the idea of creating a figurine to serve as a role model, one that could encourage girls to get interested in those fields.

This summer the duo launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds needed to produce the first batch of dolls. They smashed their $75,000 fund-raising goal and will now begin production on the Marie Curie doll. They’re using the extra $10,000 the crowdfunding effort raised to develop a Miss Possible app that will come chock-full of engaging science activities.

Once the Marie Curie doll is available online in 2015, the Miss Possible team plans to add a diverse lineup of STEM heroines to its roster—women such as computer programmer Ada Lovelace and African American aviator Bessie Coleman.

"We want to show all the girls all the possibilities they have. It is not about science and engineering," Eaves told the Tribune. "We want girls to do whatever they want to do and go for it. We want to convey the message that we can do anything."