Classroom presentations

A one-hour volunteer session can lead to a life-long career in oil and gas

Being an Energy4me volunteer means getting the opportunity to make the simple seem extraordinary. To take everyday items and turn them into learning tools. To make a bottle of water and some oil show eager minds how molecules behave.

Being an Energy4me volunteer means that you get to be part of the wonder that is the potential of a life in STEM. Two volunteers experienced this in Benin City, Nigeria. Engineers Ifeanyi Ndukwe and Peter Asemota visited the St. Maria Goretti Girls Secondary School where more than 450 students were waiting to greet them.

Our Energy4me volunteers were greeted which much enthusiasm.

Spreading the message of the importance of pursing STEM related subjects, the Energy4me volunteers then spent some time in the classroom, showing students how oil and water don’t mix and what that means for the oil and gas industry.

The Energy4me program is designed not only to teach the public about the exciting scientific concepts that are dealt with in the real world, but also to have the audience discover these concepts themselves by participating in the activity. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Students playing the Peak Oil Game

Students played the Peak Oil Game which uses beans, spoons and some paper bags to show how technology and the right decision making can lead to the discovery of potential energy.

It’s a great game that both educates and spurs and competition among students as they learn the important lesson of cooperation between various sectors within the industry. After completing the game, one student said, “This is fun. Now I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

Of course, learning isn’t always just for students. As the Energy4me volunteer, Ndukwe also gained some knowledge.

“The activity is one of the most amazing ways to introduce kids to the energy sector and it was a success,” he said. “I totally enjoyed the session, and it even strengthened my knowledge during the exercise.”

Energy4me helps to dispel the myths about the industry and educate students about the many career opportunities that await aspiring students. Teachers at St. Maria Goretti understood that potential and inquired if Ndukwe and Asemata would be available to work with the students again.

This is one of the main objectives of the Energy4me program –building a relationship beyond just the interaction with our activities. Energy4me has a range of volunteers that have given their time to mentor and answer all of the questions that the public might have.

There is no better reward than giving back to the community that has given you so much and thanks to the SPE Benin Section, we might have a few future leaders and energy professionals that emerge out of this school visit.

Working in petroleum: it’s a sweet job

Who knew that heavy crude oil could be delicious?

Secondary students at the Bayflower International School in Benin City, Nigeria, were treated to some fun and educational experiments recently through SPE’s Energy4me program. The 30 students had a taste of the types of work that petroleum engineers do in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas.

Students experiment on extracting oil in this experiment.

Through the Energy4me presentation, students learned the importance of pursuing STEM-related school subjects and career paths. SPE member Ugochi Akwiwu, projects officer for Nigerian Petroleum Development Co., led the presentation, which included an activity called Getting the Oil Out. This simple experiment explains how artificial lift extracts light and heavy crude.

Of course, Energy4me does not recommend tasting crude oil! In our experiment, light crude is represented by soda while chocolate syrup stands in for heavy crude. Hence, its tastiness! “Heavy crude tastes delicious, but is a lot of work to extract,” one student told Akwiwu. She also had the students perform the Sedimentation Bottle experiment, which illustrates in a very simplistic way why the different layers of sub-surface materials formed the way that they did.

“I enjoyed talking with the class, and the students’ energy was quite infectious,” Akwiwu said. “I was able to talk about oil spillage, environmental implication and clean-up during the Getting the Oil Out activity when we had an issue of a ‘pipe’ rupture with one of the straw tubes.”

Ugochi Akwiwu hands out materials for an experiment.

Having industry professionals come into the classroom and interact with students via Energy4me highlights the importance of making the right decisions during early stages of an engineering project. Students not only learn about the industry through the Energy4me hands-on activities, but also hear about the lives of the engineers through a career talk and question and answer session.

Energy4me is not a boring lecture, and combining the hands-on activities with a discussion about life in the industry helps students put a face to the industry and understand what is required to be successful.

The Energy4me excitement is evident in the students’ reactions. They said the presentation was “very enlightening and educational.” As an SPE member giving an Energy4me presentation, you know you are successful when a student asks “if the engineers can come back again.”

Or course, teachers love Energy4me also. Program resources are available free to the teachers, allowing them to further educate their students in a fun and dynamic way. The teacher asked Akwiwu if she could conduct similar sessions with the students during regular class time. Absolutely – Energy4me provides instructions for many hands-on activities for all grade levels.

Shaking up a bottle to learn how sediment forms under the earth’s crust.

“As I left the classroom that day, the teacher said the presentation was fun, and it made the students interested in science,” Akwiwu said. “I look forward to doing more Energy4me presentations and encouraging my section members to do likewise.”

Want to volunteer in your community? Contact for more information.

Q&A: Chevron exec encourages more girls to enter male-dominated technical fields

By Jordan Blum April 6, 2018

A Houston native, Janeen Judah was one of the few women to take up petroleum engineering in the 1970s. Fast forward, 40 years and she’s retiring this month as an executive at Chevron and as the president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. She’s leaving her position as the general manager of Chevron’s Southern Africa business.

She’ll keep serving as a new board member for Houston drilling and fracking firm Patterson-UTI Energy, but Judah also wants to encourage more girls and young women to enter the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — that too-often remain male-dominated.

Q: What made you interested in the energy sector, and petroleum engineering in particular?

A: My dad was in the midstream (energy) business. He was and is an engineer. I’ve found that a lot of women who went into engineering in that first wave in the ’70s — a lot of them are either daughters or younger sisters of engineers. It

was not something you kind of picked out of the sky normally as a major. I was always a problem solver, and that was really what appealed to me about engineering — the analytical side of it. And I was fascinated by the oil business. You grow up in Houston back then and it was very prevalent and a very fascinating wildcatter kind of business. There was no doubt I wanted to go work in the oil industry.

Q: You earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University. What was the experience and culture like then?

A: Back then, in the late 70s, only about 10 percent of the engineering students were women. It was pretty thin as far as how many women were there. There are some who stuck with it for an entire career, but I’d say probably about half of them ended up laid off in the ’80s or made a choice to stay home. From about ’86 until almost the late ’90s, there were layoffs every year or two at most companies. A lot of them left the industry.

Q: You worked with ARCO before joining Texaco and then Chevron. How was it starting your career in Midland with small companies and then ARCO?

A: I used to always have to explain where the Permian Basin was to people, and nobody asks that question anymore. I lived out there during the ’80s. It was tough times for all of my early career.

Q: Was it particularly tough as a woman?

A: When I first went there it was still the boom and women were extremely unusual in the business. When you went out in the field it was like an event. You were rare and unusual. When I had my first interview out there it was at the old Midland Petroleum Club and women were still not allowed to be members. They had to get special permission for me to eat. That’s the way it was in 1980. Now, it’s much more common to see women. But, back then, you were highly unusual. Almost every industry is male dominated. Energy is maybe a little more macho industry, or maybe more aggressively male than some other places.

Q: Was harassment prevalent?

A: It would generally open like, ‘What’s a women doing here?’ kind of thing. But it wasn’t that common. They knew you were there to do a job and they let you do it. I never experienced anything that was too egregious. It’s a good-paying job, and you work in the field, and you have to be a little tough. And, often as an engineer, you’re the one in charge, so you had to be authoritative. If you were a female rig supervisor, they’ll call you the company man. That’s just the job title.

Q: Is it frustrating to be singled out as a female leader or do you welcome the role model position?

A: Generally, we all want to be treated equally and fairly in our workplace — to just be treated as most of the guys. But we realize — at least I realized —that after a certain point you are an example. You have a duty and an obligation to be visible and to step up and help coach, mentor and give advice to the women who are following you. A lot of us have started doing that. I want to try to make the path easier for others, because mine was hard.

 Q: What’s your point of focus?

A: I personally tend to target mentoring the mid-career technical women. There’s not many like me who are late career with technical backgrounds. I can help with those hard decisions that a lot of women generally make in their mid-30s. I always get asked about work-life balance. I tell them I don’t really believe in a work-life balance; it’s more work-life compromise. Social media doesn’t help where people think everything can be perfect with Instagram and Pinterest. That’s just unrealistic. I don’t know anyone who had it all at the same time. Some things come off the table at certain phases in your life. There are compromises and decisions. If if you have a family and there’s another career involved, then there’s decisions you need to make as a family. I think a lot of women have an unrealistic expectation that there’s some kind of magical balance you can get.

Q: What do you tell them?

A: I talk a lot about perseverance. A lot of women are socialized differently. Little boys, especially through sports, if they get knocked down it’s OK. There’s no broken bones, dust them off, put them back in the game. They’re socialized to not quit and to persevere. I think a lot of girls — it’s, oh, you fell down, sit over here. We socialize that it’s OK to withdraw. I coach mid-career women when they’re facing setbacks or problems to stay in the game.

Q: So it happens from an early age?

A: A lot of girls are discouraged, particularly in high school, from going into engineering by their parents or by school counselors. I don’t think it’s held up as being a good career choice for a girl. They tend to think the boys will be mean and you’ll have to go work out on a construction site or whatever. And you don’t. A lot of what we do is computer based and in an office. If someone’s majoring in environmental policy I ask why did they pick that? If they want to save the planet, why didn’t they go into environmental engineering? They could actually do something to save the planet. A lot of the grand challenges of society are engineering problems – clean air, clean water, clean energy, pollution. I don’t want to scare them off. I want to encourage them to stick with STEM. It makes so many career options open up for girls.

Source: Houston Chronicle:

Fracturing with gelatin

Making gelatin is fun, and it certainly is delicious. But fracturing gelatin from the inside is a cracking good time.

Hydraulic fracturing was one of the experiments conducted by the SPE Calgary Section during a recent school visit. About 60 students participated in a range of Energy4me activities where they learned concepts such as porosity and perforated well casings in addition to hydraulic fracturing.

Dispelling many of the myths about this form of hydrocarbon production, SPE members explained to students about the technical aspects that are involved in the process, and why it is one of the most regulated and safest forms of hydrocarbon production. The Society of Petroleum Engineers provides good information on hydraulic fracturing on the Energy4me website.

Through Energy4me’s hands-on activities, the students also saw first-hand the results of core sampling on different sub-surface terrains. The SPE members offered instruction on why it is important to use science when investigating what is beneath the surface during hydrocarbon exploration.

From porosity to perforated well casing, students left with a better understanding of the various steps that go into exploration and production.

Globally, Energy4me excites students about the oil and gas industry. Through its award-winning program, Energy4me teaches students that engineers are investigators and problem solvers, often leading to new technologies and innovations for the world’s energy needs.


Have you ever seen the beginning of oil?

About 360 students in Kuwait did recently, thanks to the Energy4me workshop they attended during the Kuwait Oil & Gas Show.

Walking into the Ahmad Al Jaber Exhibition Center, these students along with 60 teachers were thrilled to see one of the world’s largest curved screens, which gives visitors a glimpse of the industry in Kuwait. The building was designed to look and have the shape of the shell of an extinct marine animal called the ammonite, which lived some 120 million years ago and is thought by scientists to have contributed to the formation of today’s oil reserves.

The Energy4me team took participants on a journey of exploration and production. In the fun and educational workshops, teachers and students learned how humans first discovered oil as they worked through the “natural oil seep” experiment. Next, they investigated seismic technology to see what is beneath the surface; to do that test, the groups used the “sound wave” experiment with Slinkys and Styrofoam cups.

These hands-on activities do so much to help us understand the basic scientific concepts that are dealt with within the industry, but more than that, they help give us an understanding on how to engage with students in the classroom in a fun and easy way,” said one science teacher from the Canadian Bilingual School.

Teachers and students then learned about the value of a core sample in understanding the concepts of pressure, porosity, permeability and density in helping scientists make a decision about where to produce energy. The resources offered by the Energy4me program are designed to help make these concepts more accessible to the public to increase awareness and understanding.

The journey ended with the “perforated well casing” activity, which teaches the concept that perforations help us extract more oil and natural gas, and the “getting the oil out” activity, which always sparks a fierce but friendly team competition to see who can get the oil out of the ground. Only, in this experiment, chocolate syrup and cola take the place of oil (one being more viscous than the other).

The workshops show teachers the value of using hands-on activities to encourage students to pursue STEM-related subjects in school and at university. The aim for the students was to highlight some of the exciting aspects of being an engineer and to help give them a better idea of what to expect should they choose to pursue an engineering career.

All of our experiments are freely downloadable via the Energy4me website and the materials that are needed were designed to be easily accessible in any part of the world so that anyone would be able to use our resources to help educate the public.

SPE Colombia Teaches Energy4me to 600 Students

 In July, 32 SPE members volunteered to teach the Energy4me program to nearly 600 6th and 7th grade students at the San Jose de Orito School and Jorge Eliecer Gaitan School in Orito, Colombia. The three-day event was a big hit among students and teachers. “With students, it is always important to do a hands-on activity since they are very curious,” said Jenny Bravo, teacher at San Jose de Orito School. “The activity is a motivation for their classes; many of them want to be engineers. When the students work with the volunteers, they have an incentive to continue their studies in university. I notice you were able to motivate them.”

Orange, silver and gold – a quick lesson in density

Which is more dense – an orange inside its skin or an orange that has been peeled?

Parents can easily conduct an experiment on density at home. It’s fun for mom and dad to perform hands-on science experiments together, so we created a low-cost experiment that uses household items.

First, get a clear vessel – such as a big glass bowl – and fill it with water. Then grab various items such as fruit (oranges and apples), corks, coins, rocks and a half-filled water bottle.

With younger children, ask them if the cork or the rock would sink. For older children, present a real-life situation such as the sinking of the Titanic. Ask real-life density examples such as how does a life jacket provide flotation and how does a massive steel ship float.

For those students who excel at the toughest density experiments, it’s time to present the Archimedes’ principle for density. An ancient Greek mathematician and engineer, Archimedes devised a method to test if a crown was forged of solid gold, or if silver diluted the gold crown of King Hiero II. When submerged in water, the crown would displace an amount of water equal to its own volume. This density would be lower than that of gold if cheaper and less dense metals had been added. Archimedes’ experiment proved that silver had been added to the king’s crown.

I would hate to be that goldsmith who cheated the king!

To try this at home, parents should explain the principle of density and perform the experiment. To test your child’s knowledge, ask him or her to explain the concept and perform the experiment on their own then justify the result.”

Ah, and to the question posed at the beginning of this story – did you get the right answer? The peeled orange sinks like a rock. The rind of an orange is full of tiny air pockets which help give it a lower density than water, making it float to the surface.

The FAQ on E&P: Chatting with Middle School Students about Oil and Gas

SPE Gulf Coast section member Vikrant Lakhanpal recently visited Olle Middle School in Houston, Texas.

Fueling young minds, that’s why Vikrant Lakhanpal recently visited Olle Middle School in Houston, Texas.

Lakhanpal, a production engineer at Proline Energy Resources, spoke with the students about the whole life cycle of energy production from oil and gas – geological exploration, drilling, production, transportation and refining.

“I got a chance to interact with the students and understand their perspective about the E&P industry,” he said. “It was interesting to understand what the young minds think about petroleum engineering as a career.”

A member of the Gulf Coast section, Lakhanpal based his presentation on the future energy outlook, increasing dependency on renewable energy and how the world will still depend on oil and gas 30 years from now. Lakhanpal said that even though a lot of research is happening in the renewable sector, it is not possible to become completely fossil fuel independent.

He also emphasized that oil production is a multi-disciplinary science, and the first principles of science are applied at each stage.

“I sometimes hear students ask why a certain subject is being taught to them,” Lakhanpal said. “They think it won’t be of any use in the future. That’s exactly why I wanted to give them the technical details of how things actually work. I wanted them to realize that petroleum engineering is not something out of the world; it is based on the principles of physics used to extract oil from ground.”

Lakhanpal created a trivia quiz game. He said he was concerned that the students had not been interested in the topic he presented. Had they paid attention? Would they be able to answer the questions? Happily, he received an over-whelming response.

“They asked questions about which courses to take, whether to go for an associate degree or a master’s degree,” Lakhanpal said. “I am glad I could make a difference and motivate them to take up STEM education. I am thankful to SPE for giving me this opportunity of making an impact in someone’s life. I will definitely make myself available again for such opportunities in future.”


STEM Day at Elmore Elementary in Houston, Texas

SPE member Randi Steele represented SPE’s Energy4me program and the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Elmore Elementary’s second annual STEM Day on Jan. 26. The program was organized by Crystal Williams, fourth grade STEM, computer science and robotics educator.

Williams instituted STEM Day as a way to motivate the students to think big about their futures and get them to focus on going to college. The day consisted of science presentations, robotics labs, a math competition and six science workshops.

Steele presented a basic discussion of fossil fuels and drilling for oil using materials from the Houston Museum of Natural Science where she is a master docent in the Weiss Energy Hall. Steele presented twice to large groups of about 30 fifth graders. They were very attentive and asked great questions.

“They loved learning about the rocks – especially the coal, halite, and sulfur samples,” Steele said. “Another highlight was showing the perforating gun and discussing the chemical explosive involved. This was a very worthwhile experience, and I look forward to doing it again!”




SPE QLD Energy4Me Brisbane Teachers Workshop

A big thanks to the SPE Queensland Section for initiating & sponsoring the SPE Energy4Me Brisbane Teachers Workshop. Teachers from various schools in the greater Brisbane area participated in Energy4Me program which utilized hands on activities to illustrate some basic technical concepts about oil & gas exploration & production.


Teachers found out in a fun way that getting the oil out is not as easy as it looks!


Finding the oil requires rigorous scientific analysis.

Finding the oil required rigorous scientific analysis.

Teachers were trained on how to use the Energy4Me resources in their classrooms and how these resources would encourage students to pursue STEM subjects. Energy4Me has ensured that all materials used in the experiments are easily accessible from local grocery stores and school science labs, which allows teachers from different regions to have access to the materials required to conduct such experiments. This is how Energy4me ensures that its lesson plans can be utilized globally.


Looking for that natural oil seep gives you an understanding of how oil was first discovered

The SPE Queensland Section members also provided some exciting presentations on the oil & gas industry in Australia and globally. Another huge contributor to the success of this workshop was the amazing effort of our 4 Australian Energy4Me facilitators who organized and hosted the workshop and the generosity of the All Hallows School for the providing the venue.

Natalie Chadud, Vice Chairperson QLD Board, SPE, giving the welcome address

Natalie Chadud, Vice Chairperson QLD Board, SPE, giving the welcome address