Next generation of Einsteins

Boys and girls working on a project

The Shell STEM Showdown inspires students to pursue careers in technical fields while having fun in a spirited science competition.

It’s not unusual in the US for 130 students from five different schools to gather for a sports competition. What is different is when those students are building model cranes from PVC pipe and learning to program robots.  Welcome to the Shell STEM Showdown, held this fall at the University of Houston. 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, all key areas of study for future workers in the energy industry. The middle and high school students who participated in Shell STEM Showdown currently attend “energy academies” founded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and PESA (Petroleum Equipment & Services Association) to address the worker shortage in the energy industry. These schools give students a solid basis in computer science, chemistry, math and physics to prepare them for post-secondary studies and eventually careers in energy.

At the event, students were put into teams and tasked with two challenging projects.  One was to build a working model crane from PVC pipe and battery-powered motors.  The second challenge was to program a robotic rover that would navigate a large maze.

Each student team was paired with an engineering and petrochemical student from Shell core colleges and universities around the state. These “College Captains” guided the students through both tasks and learned valuable project management skills.

Shell employees served as judges for the competition and also noted the interaction between team members and their captains. Cranes were judged on the amount of weight they could lift and quality of construction. The robotic rovers were graded on distance travelled.

The Shell STEM Showdown was in partnership with non-profit group Great Minds in STEM. This vibrant organization began as an outreach group aimed at young Hispanics and have expanded their audience to include all students. Their Viva Technology program has been generating interest in science careers for over ten years, impacting over 110,000 students, parents and teachers.

Tina Aquire, Shell Retail Services and Operations Manager, gave an inspiring talk during the opening ceremonies.  She spoke about her background and the opportunities for careers with Shell.

Dr. Jon R LaFollet, Renewable Energy Physicist with the New Energy Technology Team, gave a presentation on how Shell uses technology to enhance energy exploration.  With the help of Dhruv Arora, Senior Production Technologist and Heath Nevels, Senior Research Production Technologist, Jon demonstrated how drones can be used in energy exploration and investigating plant safety.  After the presentation, he urged students to write down their goals and refer to them frequently.

A separate educational session was held for parents and teachers.  They learned about careers in energy and the specific educational requirements needed for different jobs.

Many jobs at Shell require post-secondary education, and studies have proven that it is critical to energize youth at an early age to pursue STEM careers.  The company’s dedication to science education will provide a pipeline of technical talent to Shell and the energy industry, helping meet the energy challenges of the future. Learn more about Shell educational programs (including teacher resources) at Energize Your Future with Shell.

Helping Outstanding Teachers

Helping outstanding teachers

Shell is teaming up with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to recognize outstanding teachers and provide science laboratory makeovers. Winners receive more than $93,000 in lab makeover prizes for their schools.

Shell sponsors the NSTA’s National Lab Challenge, which invites middle and high school science teachers in the United States and Canada to illustrate replicable approaches to science lab instruction using limited school and laboratory resources.

Now in its 23rd year, Shell also sponsors the Shell Science Teaching Award, which recognizes one outstanding classroom science teacher in grades K through 12 who has had a positive impact on his or her students, school and community through exemplary classroom science learning.

The grand prizewinner receives $10,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education, where the winner is honored at an awards banquet. For the second straight year, the Shell Science Teaching Award winner received a bit of recognition on the track and at the track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and on the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion fielded by Team Penske

Long-Time Sponsor

Shell has been a long-time sponsor of NSTA, the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. NSTA's current membership includes more than 60,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.

For more information on the Shell Science Teaching Award and the NSTA Teacher Awards program, go to - opens in new window

After school reading program

A woman reads to children

Can involving families in a weekly after school reading program make a difference in student academic achievement across all disciplines?

Yes, according to results of a 10-year longitudinal study which examined standardized test scores of students, aged 6 to 10, who participated in the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ (LEH) PRIME TIME Family Reading Time program.

The longest-running, outcomes driven, humanities-based family literacy program in the nation brings together parents and children for six or eight week family literacy programs in partner schools, libraries and community centers.

Besides providing families with meals, transportation and onsite childcare to make it convenient to participate in the program (and to ensure a high program retention rate), specially trained storytellers and scholars engage students and families in a high-quality learning experience that reinforces the importance of reading and critical thinking.

In tracking the progress of students who participated in the program from the 3rd grade through the graduation exit exams, the independent study found that not only did PRIME TIME students outperform their non-PRIME TIME peers on standardized tests in reading comprehension and language arts, they also did better in all of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math).

That’s proof positive that the family learning experience, focusing on the basics of reading, combined with open-ended questioning and analysis, can have a significant impact and potential for changing the life trajectories of children – particularly those from at-risk families. In 2012, Shell supported the PRIME TIME program across Louisiana, as well as in several other Gulf South states, via the multi-year “Shell-LEH National Gulf States PRIME TIME Initiative.”

Additionally, Shell’s funded the development of the LEH’s new teacher professional development program, “PRIME TIME HomeRoom,” that translates the proven strategies for successful engagement and learning with families into custom-designed curriculum and training modules that K through 4th grade educators can implement in their classrooms.

Already endorsed by the Louisiana Department of Education, PRIME TIME HomeRoom will be piloted in a Louisiana school district this fall, with plans to initially expand statewide, and then eventually to other states supported by Shell in this path-breaking educational partnership.

For more information on the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, go to opens in new window

Making science interesting

Students working in a classroom

Shell Partners with Educators to Make Science More Interesting – One Race Car at a Time.

Shell invests in teacher professional development to deliver innovative and engaging lessons that improve student achievement and inspire more students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math.

Shell partners with the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project to improve energy education by engaging K-12 students and teachers in a deeper understanding of energy fundamentals. One such innovative program is The Science of Racing. Recently over 100 Houston-area middle and high school science teachers learned new ways to teach physics and chemistry. The workshop provides teachers with hands-on experience with various aspects of racing including material science, fuels, engines and polymers. 

Here teachers are learning a new and fun way to illustrate physics in the classroom.

For more information on the NEED project, go to - opens in new window

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