EMCT Program Attracts Students with Smart Barbie Grand Hotel

A Message from Falecia Williams, President, West and Downtown Campuses

Long gone are the days of sun-loving Malibu Barbie. Today’s Barbie is going to college and learning about building automation systems (BAS) controls. That’s the message Valencia College shared with hundreds of middle-schoolers who attended a career expo on Friday, February 28, 2020, at Orange Technical College – Mid Florida Campus. All is part of an effort to close the gender gap among women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and to share information about one of Valencia’s newest Associate in Science degrees in energy management and controls technology (EMCT).

The hook? A bright pink Barbie grand hotel wired to various forms of technical equipment, which was used to showcase how a graduate of Valencia’s EMCT program might help to make a commercial building, like a hotel, energy efficient. Inside the hotel, “BAS Controls Tech Barbie” could also be found. At the booth, students also learned how to proactively address the world’s climate crisis, as commercial buildings are responsible for almost 40% of all of our nation’s energy consumption.

Deb Hall, EMCT program chair and electronic engineering technology professor, considers this type of hands-on outreach to be pivotal to the EMCT program, which is funded by a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant. Deb says one of her team’s goals is increasing female student enrollment within the EMCT program.

“Research highlights the importance of peer influences in the development of a female’s college major aspiration and career aspiration,” Deb said. “This is positive peer pressure in action.”

And she has evidence to prove it.

Deb said before the program started using the “Smart Barbie Grand Hotel” at its events, it attracted mostly male middle and high-school students.

“The majority of female students would simply walk past our table,” she explained. “For the first time ever, we are observing groups of female middle-school-aged students literally running up to our EMCT A.S. degree table to learn about why Barbie and her friends are hanging out at a STEM outreach event.”


  • Karen Cowden said:

    Reading this article makes my heart happy. What a wonderful lift for females who want a future in engineering or anything STEM! I still am a lover of taking tours to factories to figure out how things work, which was started early with my own mother taking us around to places well before it was normalized. Excellent work!

    AMMon, 23 Mar 2020 08:58:56 +0000Mon, 23 Mar 2020 08:58:56 +0000am20,8:58 am

  • April Montallana said:

    BRILLIANT! You go girls!!!

    PMTue, 24 Mar 2020 14:27:30 +0000Tue, 24 Mar 2020 14:27:30 +0000pm20,2:27 pm

  • Paul Wilder said:

    This is great, Deb!

    PMFri, 15 Jan 2021 23:00:06 +0000Fri, 15 Jan 2021 23:00:06 +0000pm21,11:00 pm

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