It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's Hello Kitty.
That's what a seventh grade student from California had in mind when she came up with her dream science project: sending a Hello Kitty doll her dad brought back from a business trip in Japan into space.
Lauren Rojas, a 12-year-old from Antioch, Calif., got the idea after seeing a television commercial in which a balloon was launched into the sky. She thought she could do the same with her Hello Kitty doll. She would test air pressure and temperature at high altitude for her school's science fair.
"I said, 'Wow, are you serious?'" Lauren's teacher, Annette Cluck of Cornerstone Christian School, told ABCNews.com. "I was kind of blown away because usually students don't do something that extravagant."
Cluck, who teaches seventh and eighth grade science at the school, gave Lauren the okay to move ahead with her project. Lauren turned to her dad, Rod Rojas, for help.
"We spent about one month planning and executing it," he said. "We used a company called High Altitude Science in Colorado to get the equipment, the weather balloon and flight computer."
Lauren and her father mounted small video cameras on their rocket-shaped gondola to record Hello Kitty's journey. The balloon reached an altitude of 93,625 feet (17.73 miles), Rojas said. There, the air was so thin that the balloon burst, sending Hello Kitty from the sky. It landed in a tree 47 miles from the launch sight, according to Rojas.
As with any good science project, presentation is key, so Lauren gave hers a 21 st-century twist by creating a YouTube video to show the launch and the planning behind it. A family friend compiled the four-minute video. It has had nearly 200,000 views.
"It was all Lauren's idea of the music and how she wanted it to flow and to end," Rojas said. "As we looked around the Internet to investigate other types of launches, Lauren said she wanted to make a video to use in her presentation."
Lauren's project will be judged in the school science fair on Feb. 12 but she's already earning rave reviews from her peers.
"Yesterday I showed all of my classes and they were applauding. It's like we have a celebrity," Cluck said. "She's very quiet and shy but I can tell she just beams with pride when the students praise her or talk to her about it. She just lights up."
If Lauren's project wins, she'll head to the regional science fair later this year. But she has some stiff competition at her school - students asking how greasy potato chips are, whether you can read in colors, and whether laughter lowers your blood pressure, according to Cluck.
Win or lose, Rojas says he's just happy with how the process has engaged his daughter.
"She loves to collect bugs and she's always very interested in experiments," he said. "I'm hoping that it sparks her interest in science even further."
Click HERE to watch Lauren's "Hello Kitty in Space" video.
- Science, Social Science, & Humanities
- Hello Kitty