Offshore Science and Technology Challenge Aims to Attract Students to STEM

Groups of high school students will tackle offshore challenges during the High School Offshore Science and Technology Stars Challenge, a daylong competition created to draw in future STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals.

This marks the first year for the challenge, which will be held March 4 at the University of Houston’s (UH) TDECU Stadium. The competition is sponsored by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI). The institute was formed in 2013 by the BSEE and is a partnership of UH, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.     

The challenge “is an important part of BSEE’s overall efforts to promote STEM programs as part of Secretary [Sally] Jewell’s youth engagement initiative,” Brian Salerno, BSEE director, said in a written release.

Students participating in the competition will use NASA-developed piezoelectric technology to harness energy generated by underwater sound waves in order to power a remote control helicopter, cross the stadium’s turf and land on a designated offshore platform.

“The theme of this inaugural event was to provide an example for the oil and gas educational sector to look outside the industry for innovative solutions to engineering challenges in BSEE’s arena, the offshore platform environment,” Paul Robinson, program manager for the OESI, said in an email to Rigzone. “NASA was selected as this year’s alternate industry, from which an innovative technology would be selected for adaptation and simulation, to showcase an energy harvesting enhancement available within the offshore oil and gas environment.”

Robinson said NASA’s piezoelectric technology applies due to its ability to convert an offshore platform’s energy-harvesting opportunities (mechanical vibrations, top-side noise/sound and underwater acoustic activity) into electrical energy.

The top four teams in the competition will win cash prizes and their schools will receive teaching grants. The winning team will be showcased at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston in May.

“OESI has already initiated plans to expand the BSEE Technology Challenge into the high school districts of New Orleans for the 2017 program,” Robinson said. “Plans for Year 3 will expand the event again to include the Washington, D.C. area and the Pacific region.”


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