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How a school maths challenge inspired a new career path

BP has been supporting STEM in schools for 50 years and the BP in the Community team are passionate advocates for getting into the classroom, bringing young people on site and showing them the inspiring careers they could have. But it is always hard for companies to tangibly demonstrate the long term impact of our programmes… until a chap called Greg walked past…. 

Greg was a young lad of 14 when he first came across BP through a ‘Maths in the Pipeline’ challenge held at the BP North Sea HQ in Aberdeen. It turned out to be a defining moment in Greg’s youth although he may not have guessed at the time! Not only did the volunteers at BP engage and inspire him, they also gave him some tangible career options to think about which has ultimately led him to where he is today – a real live Petroleum Engineer working for BP!


The STEM dream


“I remember the 3D glasses and story of the oil, the reservoir, the platforms and the pipelines; I remember the presentations by engineers and geologists and I remember being set to work with students from other schools - the buzz and excitement of the team work. Now, I get the chance to create those memories for the next generation of school students and – in some cases – the next generation of scientists and engineers.


At 17,  three years after taking part in the ‘Maths in the Pipeline’ day at the BP office in Aberdeen, I undertook a 12-week field development project with my school team. This competition called ‘STEM in the Pipeline’ organised by TechFest, continues to be supported by many of the North Sea’s companies (including BP) and sees teams of final-year students turn seismic surveys into a proposal for a new production facility.


In 2007, my team was mentored by Alies Bartelds, then a BP reservoir engineer and now operations manager of TechFest and by 2017,  I was returning the favour after Alies asked if I would mentor my old school Inverurie Academy in the same competition.


As a 17 year-old,  the competition was pivotal. Meeting engineers, geologists and economists immediately before applying to university turned me towards a degree in chemical engineering, with an eye on working in the energy industry. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and subsequently an MSc in petroleum engineering,  I have done just that and have had a very rewarding time with BP for the past five years.


Without the competition I would probably have studied a STEM subject at university, however working with a team on data that didn’t have a set answer showed me how I could apply the science studied at school to create value for a business. Alies’ enthusiasm and wise counsel helped too! There’s no doubt that winning the competition and then presenting the project at the local branch of the Energy Institute appealed to my competitive side and had me hooked on the idea of working as a petroleum engineer for real.


Inspiring the next generation


Now I volunteer regularly with the BP in the Community programme. I mentor young people and take huge enjoyment from seeing their enthusiasm for STEM. I work with young people from 11-17 years old and it’s always challenging but I am also constantly developing my own skills to make sure that I communicate well and engage with them properly. I always enjoy their left-field questions and the energy with which students approach tasks that are outside their comfort zones.


Recently I have been asked to become the BP link with my alma-matter, the Institute of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot Watt University, and I look forward to offering any insights to those who are set on making the final step into a career in STEM and hopefully joining me in what I find to be an increasingly exciting energy industry.”


BP still supports STEM and Maths in the Pipeline, in fact the 2018 STEM in the Pipeline event was hosted in the Aberdeen office on 10th December.  Investing in the next generation of engineers and scientists is a commitment that BP takes seriously and believes should be done on a sustainable basis – investing in effective programmes for the long-term so that teachers and students alike can rely on the support provided and really build on the value of these extra-curricular projects. For more information on the programmes that BP supports please see our BP in the Community section.


About Techfest

TechFest is an Aberdeen based charity, who aim to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities to young people and the wider community through its annual TechFest Festival as well as its year-round programme of educational events for schools and young people. For more information, please visit www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk.