1. Home
  2. News and insights
  3. Featured articles
  4. OTC: Students create cities from scratch, electricity from guitars and energy from algae

OTC: Students create cities from scratch, electricity from guitars and energy from algae

Release date:
May 10, 2019
Editor’s note: Student reporters Zack Donovan, a freshman at Episcopal High School in Houston, and Victoria Peña, a freshman at Tompkins High School in Katy, Texas, interviewed the participants of the OTC Energy Challenge. Here is their report.

Utilizing guitars to demonstrate the power of piezoelectricity, designing simulated cities from scratch, and turning environmental hazards into potential energy sources — these were just a few of the solutions developed by Houston-area high school students in this year’s OTC Energy Challenge. More than 70 students worked in teams to solve real-world energy problems and then presented their solutions to energy industry experts at the Offshore Technology Conference.


What is the OTC Energy Challenge?

The OTC Energy Challenge is now in its third year. Students are given a set of real-word problems and asked to propose solutions using their own creativity and the skills they have learned through their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses. Assisted by school coaches and industry mentors, each team competed and presented their solutions as part of the Offshore Technology Conference’s official programming.


When and where?

The students, who represented 18 private and public schools from more than five Houston-area school districts, began working in January and presented their projects on Tuesday, May 7 at NRG Center.


To end the three-hour event and months of hard work, the winners were announced, having been judged on aspects such as innovation, creativity, thoughtfulness, quality and feasibility.The winning teams, which each received a cash prize, were:


1st place: The Village School

Challenge: Repurpose depleted offshore platforms and to capture carbon


2nd place: Westside High School

Challenge: Design offshore platforms powered by wave energy  


3rd place: César E. Chavez High School

Challenge: Round up carbon dioxide for economic and environmental benefit


Cindy Yeilding, senior vice president of BP America and member of the OTC board of directors, thanked the students, their coaches and the industry experts who mentored and judged the competition. She also talked about the goal of the challenge and the winners.


“Really, the big winners here today are all of us,” she said, referring to the wider energy industry. 


“The original objective of the OTC Energy Challenge was to learn from you,” she continued telling the students. “How do you solve problems, what is important to you and what sort of fresh ideas do you bring to the participants?”


“We all learned something today.”