More than 60 students from schools across the greater Houston area competed in teams to address one of seven real-world energy challenges, ranging from developing a self-diagnosing and self-healing offshore production facility to designing a smarter and more efficient floating wind turbine.
“These challenges demonstrate the evolving nature of our industry and the importance of engaging the next generation early,” said Wafik Beydoun, chairman of the OTC board of directors.
BP was the founding partner and third-place sponsor of the program, which was launched in 2017 after Cindy Yeilding, senior vice president of BP America, introduced the idea to the OTC board. Other sponsors included the American Petroleum Institute, BHP, KPMG, the International Association of Drilling Contractors and the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
The purpose behind the event, Yeilding said, was to inspire students by asking them to solve real-world challenges, discover new technologies and innovations from the next generation, help them explore the wide range of career opportunities in the energy industry, and learn more about what motivates young people.
“You’re here at OTC along with all the engineers, scientists and other members of the offshore technology community because we wanted to hear from you, and we wanted to learn from you,” Yeilding told students. “We wanted to see how you address problems and welcome you to the industry.”
Each team was supported by an academic coach and worked with industry mentors, including dozens of BP employee volunteers. The projects were evaluated by a panel of judges from industry and academia, and the top three teams received cash prizes.
The overall winner was a team from Stratford High School who was challenged with designing an offshore solar farm. After exploring ideas for floating solar panels on buoys or mounting them to the sides of fixed platforms, they developed a solution for transforming oil tankers into mobile solar farms to power offshore facilities.
The team included Charles Posey, grade 11; Emma Balevic, grade 11; Kyle Goodson, grade 12; and Madeline Harms, grade 12.
“We really liked this idea because not only was it a good way to produce energy, it was also a good way to repurpose old, used supertankers that are expensive to decommission,” said Posey.
“This is one of those experiences that you don’t normally get in high school,” Balevic added. “We’ve never had to problem-solve like this before, on this scale.”
Sarah Lucas, associate director of third-party outreach and advocacy at BP and project manager for the OTC Energy Challenge, presented awards to the Stratford team as well as the teams from Westside High School and the Village School, who placed second and third, respectively.
Travis Herzog, meteorologist at ABC 13 in Houston, also spoke with students about the impact of weather on the energy industry and highlighted how technologies like supercomputers and artificial intelligence are being used in weather forecasting.