Making the transportation fuels — gasoline, diesel and jet — that keep us going. Making the petrochemicals that make everyday life and high tech life are built on. That’s serious hard hat country.
But that’s not all it is. America’s fuels and petrochemical industries are also serious STEM (that’s science, technology, engineering and math) country — chemistry and engineering, computer programming and AI, mathematics and robotics.
From programs to spark the interest of middle school students, to giving high school and college students the practical hands-on experience they need to excel in these fields, and programs to keep teachers on top of their fields, the companies that make up the fuels and petrochemical industries are seriously involved in supporting STEM education. Let’s take a look:
In New Orleans, Valero teams up with Tulane University for a day of BATS.
(Photo from Tulane University)
Nope, not a baseball thing, BATS is Boys At Tulane in STEM. About 70 middle school boys who don’t normally get a lot of STEM time, or get to meet engineers, chemists and other STEM professionals, get exactly that.
A lot happens during these activities. One of our favorites is when a student sends a electrical signal to move muscles in another student’s arm! (Part of learning how the brain works.) Just as important as doing all the different engineering projects though, was meeting men and women who started out in middle school, and went on to become Valero engineers.
The engineering bug started even younger in Detroit for the 5th grade girls of the Engineering Society of Detroit. They got a chance to get out of the classroom, and into Marathon Petroleum’s Detroit refinery.
(Marathon Petroleum welcomes the Girls of the Engineering Society of Detroit)
Their “big sisters”, female engineers at Marathon, gave the girls an inside look at the workings of the refinery. They even got to do a little work themselves, with a grown-up engineer standing right by. The girls also got a look at the life of an engineer, and heard the stories of how their big sisters made that happen. Not that this was a tough audience. These girls walked in wearing t-shirts that read “I’m a future engineer”!
No surprise but a lot of STEM work requires high tech tools like 3D printers and laser cutters, computers and computer-controlled machine tools. And probably no surprise again a lot of schools don’t have that sort of gear.
So that’s just the gear Chevron’s Fab Labs bring to schools in need. A Fab Lab is a “digital fabrication lab”, which is a big way to say a simple thing – a Fab Lab is a 21st century place to make things.
(Photo from Chevron)
Chevron sponsors Fab Labs in Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Washington DC, Odessa, Texas and Bakersfield and Richmond, California. Communities around the country where the company operates. And there are mobile Fab Labs too – the same gear, packed into a trailer and taken on the road to schools that don’t have science and tech resources of their own.
But of course, even with excited students and well-equipped classrooms, there’s one more piece of the STEM education puzzle: teachers! Almost all of us have a teacher we remember, a teacher who could make complicated subjects make sense, who could make boring subjects interesting, and could make us feel like we wanted to keep learning and discovering.
ExxonMobil helps get those teachers, into teaching chemistry and physics, math and engineering to those middle-school and high-school students who are going to be the next generation of chemists and physicists, mathematicians and engineers.
(Photo from ExxonMobil)
And ExxonMobil does that through ongoing, robust support for the National Math and Science Initiative, the UTeach Institute and Teach for America.
We’ll continue to bring you more of these stories (have you heard the one about the girls who built a catapult?), about the work that fuels and petrochemical companies are doing in the communities where they work, and nationwide to make STEM education available to more students, and to give kids a chance to see if this is the work for them. Because in tomorrow’s world, we’re going to need plenty of men and women who know quantum computing and Bernoulli’s Principle, and things we don’t even have names for today.