Boys and girls working on a project

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 Boys and girls working on a projectbackground 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.

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