Breaking News
More () »

CU Boulder professor helps Barbie break barriers with new career

Barbie has been in the workforce for nearly 60 years, holding dozens of jobs. This year, she's taking on a new career as a Robotics Engineer.

KUSA — Casey Fiesler is an Associate Professor of Information Science at CU Boulder who is passionate about STEM and getting young girls involved.

So, she teamed up with Mattel, the toy manufacturing company that produces the popular Barbie doll, to reach her target audience. She even helped the company release a coding e-book to go hand-in-hand with the new Robotics Engineer Barbie.

"If you close your eyes and picture a computer scientist, probably what comes to mind is a man sitting in a cubicle by himself, coding all day and pounding energy drinks," Fiesler said.

She's not okay with that stereotype.

"As a professor, I want to see more and more girls in our computing classes," she said.

She believes the way to do that is to get girls interested in STEM at a young age. Enter Robotics Engineer Barbie.

Fiesler helped create the coding e-book that was released with the Barbie last month, called "Coding Camp with Barbie and Friends."

Fiesler says this Barbie has come a long way from her past STEM predecessors, like Computer Engineer Barbie released back in 2014. That Barbie also came with a book.

"Barbie infects her computer with a virus and her sister's computer with a virus, and in the end the boys fix her computer and they finish coding her game," she explained.

Fiesler said that story had some serious problems. So she rewrote it and posted the new one online.

"Instead of her incompetence in infecting computers with viruses, it's that she's upset about sexism because people were assuming that she was the one who was only doing the design and not coding the game they were making," she said.

It went viral, just like her previous blog post on Game Developer Barbie, which was released in 2016.

"Game Developer Barbie was way better," she said. "They consulted with real female game developers. She's wearing sensible shoes. Not that game developers can't wear cute shoes, but they're probably not wearing stilettos to work."

Fiesler says there was one missed opportunity - no learning tools for kids.

A year later, she helped change that when Mattel asked for help on the coding e-book. It not only breaks down what coding is and how to do it, but it sends a big message to little girls.

"Girls can be learning to code right now," Fiesler said. "Even if you're seeing mostly men in a certain career, that doesn't matter. You can do anything. I'm really glad I did something that might have helped make a difference for girls trying to get into computing."

Mattel also partnered with Tynker, an online coding platform for kids. When kids visit the website they'll find Barbie related coding lessons.

Robotics Engineer Barbie also comes in four different ethnicities.

Before You Leave, Check This Out