Children from local elementary schools practice lab experiments designed to spark their interest in math and science.
To bolster students’ interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – also known as STEM subjects – Aramco Services Company (ASC) launched a new program in August called Aramco iExplore. Partnering with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, ASC is working with local elementary students to spark their interest in the energy industry and in engineering and geoscience careers.
“Research shows that getting students interested in math and science at an early age, around 10 or 11, makes a dramatic impact on influencing them to pursue careers in the STEM fields,” said Alma Kombargi, supervisor of Branding, CSR and Planning in Public Affairs at ASC. “They are the future generation of employees in our industry.”
The program launched on Aug. 15 when teachers from local public schools took part in a one-day workshop at the museum’s Wiess Energy Hall, one of the world’s most sophisticated energy exhibits. The launch prompted local newspapers and television stations to cover the program.
With the help of guest lecturer Gretchen Gillis, a geological specialist at ASC, the workshop helped increase teachers’ knowledge of STEM-related subjects, made them feel more at ease teaching technical material, and provided detailed lesson plans.
Teachers also took a tour of the energy hall – seeing firsthand how oil and gas are extracted from the Earth. They stepped into a “Geovator,” an elevator-like portal that carried them on a simulated trip – complete with noise and jolts – to the bottom of an oil well 7,285 feet deep. On a plasma screen, they viewed different formations, the well bore and ultimately learned how drilling pipes tap into natural resources. Teachers also had a chance to try out interactive displays about thermodynamics, gravity and alternative sources of energy.
In a museum classroom, teachers participated in hands-on demonstrations developed by ASC and the museum that brought abstract energy concepts to life using magnets, cranks and pulleys.
Later this fall, the teachers will take their fifth-grade students to the museum to learn about careers in energy, perform lab experiments, tour the energy hall, and learn about the energy industry from identifying oil and gas in rock formations to the refining process.
Aramco Services Company Geological Specialist Gretchen Gillis speaks to local elementary teachers about the many careers in energy.
“We are hoping these experiences will plant a seed so that when these students are older, they will pursue in-demand professions in the energy industry,” said Ali Mutairi, director of Public Affairs at ASC who helped develop the Aramco iExplore program.
Reports by the U.S. National Science Board show that the number of college students graduating with science and engineering degrees in the United States pale in comparison to those in Europe and Asia. As the world’s population continues to grow, new oil and gas discoveries and renewable resources will be needed to meet increasing energy demands. To make this possible, scientists and engineers are also going to be in high demand.
“We are really proud to be able to participate in this very important program,” said Claire Scoggin, the director of Wiess Energy Hall programming at the museum. “Not only are students getting a boost in subjects that are the basis for the careers of tomorrow, but so are their teachers.”
The Aramco iExplore program is free of charge and expects to educate approximately 500 students and their teachers this school year. A total of 12 classes and combined workshops will be given this school year.
ASC conducted two pilot classes earlier this year to prepare for the August launch.
A local elementary school teacher learns to perform lab experiments that she can take back to her classroom this fall.