Students Dig in to Mock Drilling Exercise at PetroChallenge

More than 150 sophomores from Milby HS, Westside HS, and the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy (YWCPA) in Houston ISD and Southwest HS in Fort Worth ISD competed in the fifth annual PetroChallenge held Sept. 20.

The computer simulation exercise, which took place this year at the Houston Community College’s Alief Campus, asks teams of students to form an energy company entering a new oil and gas field. Starting with $200 million in funds, their goal is to achieve the highest company value by finding oil or gas and investing in other teams’ opportunities.

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At the end of the two-day exercise, Team Nice Dynamite (composed of Dariel Diggs from YWCPA and Sergio Perez from Milby HS) took top honors, winning $400, while Team Twin Oilers (composed of Miguel Morales from Milby, Celeste Neal from YWCPA, and Ethan Kwaja from Westside HS) won second place and $300, and Team Blueberry Pie (composed of Cindy Gonzalez from Milby HS, Emil Bakiyev from Westside HS, and two Southwest HS students) won third place and $200.

“We have a serious shortage of engineers in this country,” said Milby engineering teacher Jeff Stear, and this event helps groom the next generation of students for those professions. “So sophomore year, they learn what it means to be a petroleum engineer, junior year they learn how the industry functions, and senior year they get involved in research and self-study,” said Stear, who has 34 years of experience as a civil engineer.

Sponsored by EP Energy, Shell, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA), the challenge pits students against one another in a race against time to win the two-day competition. The exercise was created by Simprentis, a United Kingdom software development company, and allows teams to partner with other teams to cut costs and increase production.

“This competition serves as a powerful education tool to stimulate the next generation of energy professionals to drive this industry forward,” said Barry Russell, president/CEO of IPAA.

“We purposefully put students from different high schools on the same team,” added Anne Ford, director of IPAA/PESA Education Center in Houston. “Just like in the real world, they have to work with people they don’t know.”

The high schools represented at this event are just a few of the HISD campuses that prepare students for a career in the petroleum industry. Milby’s Academy for Petroleum Exploration and Production Technology was launched in the fall of 2008, Westside’s Engineering and Geosciences Academy debuted in the fall of 2009, and YWCPA opened in the fall of 2011 with a strong STEM-based (science, technology, engineering, and math) program.