By Dr. Deb Hall
On September 27th and 28th of 2017, the Women in HVACR Conference met for the first time as a stand-alone conference! In the past, they usually partnered with an existing HVACR related conference. Check out the web link below to see a few photos of what Texas-sized FUN was had by all who attended…Yeehaw!!!
Both men and women are welcome to attend this conference which was held this year at Tarrant County College’s Center of Excellence for Energy Technology in Fort Worth, Texas. But as you might guess, the male attendees were in the minority. Something that most men working in the HVACR industry are not accustomed to, but their female colleagues most certainly are.
A welcome networking reception was held in downtown Fort Worth at a historic restaurant called the Reata on their “Sunset Deck”. The food and ambiance were beautiful, but what was even more special was the Women in HVACR Conference attendees. Everyone was so welcoming and excited about the conference’s guest speakers, activities planned for the next day, meeting new female colleagues working in the HVACR industry, and reconnecting with old friends made at past conferences.
The HVACR expertise present at the conference was extensive. The conference attendees were comprised of individuals working in controls, sales, education, marketing, advertising, graphic design, service, equipment design, and entrepreneurship. If it somehow involved HVACR, you could be sure that you would find someone at this conference who did it! How this conference may have differed from your more traditional HVACR conference was in its overarching theme of “Discover Your Legacy” that was woven throughout each guest speaker’s presentation. Elva LeBlanc who was the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of Tarrant County College was our event kickoff presenter.
We also heard from Rhonda Wiggins who is an HVACR instructor from Hennepin Technical College and was the Runner Up in “The NEWS 2016 Instructor of the Year. Her talk was called “Sequence of Operation: A Technical Memoir” and involved detailing a typical gas furnace sequence of operations. Rhonda mentioned that there are two main industry complaints about HVACR program graduates: their electrical skills are weak and that HVACR technicians are never on time.
BAS technicians could also benefit from strong electrical troubleshooting and time management skills. Something to think about as we create our own BAS program curriculum. Our highly motivating Keynote Speaker was Elizabeth McCormick who discussed “YOU. In the Pilot’s Seat”. She was a former Black Hawk pilot who was absolutely inspirational. She provided the audience with self-confidence boosting daily activity ideas and had us work in smaller teams to learn the power of negative verses, positive spoken words and integrity through various most intriguing activities.
The Women in HVACR also awarded three female students $2000 scholarships each which they can use for anything that might help them either academically or professionally. During lunch, we heard from Melissa Santillan, a passionate recent graduate of Mike’s college who now works at A/C Supply. Her topic was “Why I decided to pursue my education in the HVAC Technical Program at TCC”. She then broke us up into teams to discover the importance of encouraging each other within the HVACR industry.
I’ve only highlighted a few of the conference guest speakers to give you an idea of how the conference’s theme, “Discover Your Legacy”, was threaded throughout the conference. Our very own Mike Laster from Tarrant County College led one of our Center of Excellence for Energy Technology tours which were conducted in the afternoon. We ended our day at a gorgeous Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth called Joe T. Garcia’s. If you ever get a chance to visit Mike at Tarrant County College, make sure to swing by that place for some amazing food topped off with beautifully lit up outdoor gardens intertwined with tiled water fountains and live Mexican musicians strolling from table to table taking song suggestions! I wanted to request “Deep in the Heart of Texas”, but I don’t know if there is a Mexican version of that hardcore Texan ballad!
I also recommend encouraging your female students to apply for one of the Women in HVACR’s scholarships and if at all possible, to attend a future Women in HVACR Conference. Maybe someday each of us at the BEST Center could figure out a way to fund the cost of sending at least one of our female BAS students from each of our programs to attend this conference? Anyone who is fortunate enough to attend a Women in HVACR Conference should be ready for a mindset modifying, inspiring, and re-energizing good time…similar to what happens at our own BEST Center workshops!
Deb Hall, Energy Management and Controls Technology Program Chair | Electronics Engineering Technology Program Chair | Co-Principal Investigator NSF ATE Proposal 1601403 | IEEE Orlando Section Vice Chair | ASHRAE Valencia Student Branch Faculty Advisor, Valencia College