National Science Week (August 12-20), Woodside is shining the spotlight on our collaborative and innovative partnerships that support education around Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
As many of our employees are working in STEM jobs, we have a key opportunity to inspire the next generation to follow in our footsteps.
Woodside's STEM in Schools Program is a collaboration between Woodside volunteers and
Earth Science Western Australia aimed at educating and inspiring primary and secondary school students about the oil and gas industry and the relevance of a career in STEM.
Since it began in 2016, the initiative has already reached and inspired more than 3000 WA students.
Fiona Chow, Chief Geotechnical Engineer at Woodside, recently took on the challenge to teach the concept of oil and gas to a classroom of 30 year 6 primary school students. Fiona shared her experience and insights about what it was like to teach kids about STEM.
Hilarity and horror - teaching kids where oil and gas comes from
Originally published on
March 9, 2017
The hour-long training session made it look simple: how difficult could it be to introduce the concept of an oil and gas reservoir by guiding primary school kids to make a vegemite sandwich? We followed the trainer's instructions precisely and drilled one well each – too easy!
Fast forward to a classroom of 30 Year 6 students. We introduced the concept of energy and watched a movie showing oil and gas formation and then it was time for them to make their reservoir sandwiches in teams of three. We gave instructions and asked them to repeat them back, handed out the kits and then watched the chaos unfold. Hilarity and horror in equal measures, as the kids enthusiastically launched into sandwich making with a couple of cases of super-saturated vegemite-soaked sandwiches – gross! Wells were drilled, results compared and more and more wells drilled till it was impossible to drill any more. Vegemite was found smeared on knees and sprinkles made their way everywhere.
Surprisingly, the discussion afterwards showed that this simple exercise had a big impact with the students coming out with probing and imaginative questions such as "How long does it take for the gas to travel from the reservoir to our kitchens?", "How do explosions happen?", "How did they build the Busselton Jetty?". They respectfully noted that engineers had to be "brave".
Altogether I led three sessions, two with Y6 and one with Y2 with the younger class being the most receptive and the best at following instructions. At the end when we asked "Who wants to be an engineer or scientist when they grow up?" we had a deep sense of satisfaction as 30 hands shot up into the air. Mission accomplished!
Five things I learnt were:
1. The majority of 8 year olds have no idea where electricity, petrol or gas comes from.
2. Most kids don't know what STEM stands for.
3. Kids are best engaged by answering questions and being active.
4. The importance of emphasising that only a dab of vegemite is needed in the sandwiches.
5. A molecule of gas takes about a week to travel from the North West Shelf reservoirs to our kitchens, depending on demand, according to Julie Morgan, Woodside's Chief Flow Assurance Engineer.
If you would like to register your interest and nominate a school to be involved in the program, complete the contact form on Woodside's new
STEM Education webpage. This is where schools, teachers and students can also access some useful resources.