The BP Ultimate Field Trip
Engineering students compete every year for a seven week paid internship visiting BP’s North Sea operations. Even if they don’t walk away with the top prize, they’ve gained knowledge and skills that will appeal to employers.
The BP Ultimate Field Trip competition, which held its 2011 final last month, gives students from many backgrounds the chance to show off their ingenuity and knowledge by responding to a tough question set by the company.
This year’s question was “what innovative, scientific ideas can your team come up with to maintain the UK Continental Shelf as a global centre of marine technology and engineering excellence by extending the useful life of North Sea oil and gas infrastructure – and, potentially, the oil and gas fields - as their economically productive activity comes to an end?”
Over 140 entries were eventually narrowed down to four over a six month elimination process of presentations and interviews. The winners were chosen at a grand final at the Natural History Museum in April, which was hosted by scientist and TV presenter Professor Brian Cox. Each of the teams presented a short film introducing their idea, before answering questions from a team of top BP professionals, and Professor Cox himself.
This years winners, the students behind Rigid Ideas, begin their internship in July 2011 for a seven week period with BP North Sea. During this time they will work on a real business challenge, experience life offshore, visit operations in Norway and enjoy the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
How the Ultimate Field Trip came about
BP primarily runs the Ultimate Field Trip as an experiential event. Two years ago, prior to the launch of the competition, the company conducted research amongst STEM students which showed that most students believed there to be a lack of interaction and entry points to the oil and gas sector for them.
BP took action to correct this and created the competition to give STEM students the opportunity to engage with and experience the oil and gas sector at first hand.
“Of course, we also hope they learn a great deal in the process,” says Emma Judge, head of UK graduate recruitment, BP. “These lessons range from an increase in technical knowledge and the application of technical knowledge to a business situation, through to time management and ‘soft’ skills such as communication and presentation skills.”
How competitions can help your career
IET Student and early career spoke to a number of the finalists and discovered that they all felt they had gained a lot from the experience, whether they won or lost. This shows it’s always a good move to enter yourself into any industry competitions when you’re looking for a career in that sector.
“The experience has been eye-opening,” says Gareth Herron, from the Edinburgh Innovators. “Not only has my personal knowledge of renewable energy been vastly increased, but I now have a greater perspective on how such technologies would be implemented. This has set me in good stead for entering an industry that is driven towards always finding alternative sources of energy.”
“Time management is a skill that I've really honed, but I have also acquired a few other skills for the CV,” adds teammate Sam Walpole. “For one, confidence in giving presentations. A 15 minute presentation followed by a 40 minute Q&A session in the semi-final, and a 20 minute Q&A session in the final in front of 130 people have definitely rid me of any stage fright I might have had before.”
“For our research and preparation we had numerous phone calls and meetings with professionals from the relevant industries. Through these meetings I was able to learn how to approach professional situations with the right attitude, and so be able to come away from these meetings with the best results,” continues colleague Rory Griffin. “Gaining knowledge of the energy industry in the North Sea is something I consider priceless. In any job interview or cover letter I now have something other than my academic life to talk about, and more importantly, something that is extremely relevant to jobs I'll be applying to.”
Winners Rigid Ideas will be sharing their experiences with us post-internship this autumn. For more information on the competition head to the BP Ultimate Field Trip Facebook page.
Rigid Ideas – winners
Thando Sibanda, Adeleye Adewole, Peter Oladimeji
The winning team was Rigid Ideas, made up of three chemical engineering students from Loughborough. Their idea utilised the temperature gradient between seawater and geothermal fluids in depleting oil wells to generate electricity. Using water and the electricity generated, they argued that they are able to commercially produce hydrogen, which is a clean and sustainable energy carrier.
“We definitely spent over 100 hours on this project!” enthuses Oladimeji. ”We’d be in the library until late but we didn’t see the time go by as we were actually enjoying ourselves,” he says.
“We’re now thinking of using what we’ve learnt for this competition for our dissertation project, incorporating this into our work,” adds Sibanda. “We’ve developed so many skills and so much knowledge, we’ve got so much we can show from this in a job interview.”
Team Hydration – finalists
Holly Walton, Sharanpreet Moore, Gayatri Vijayaragavan
Studying chemical engineering with biotechnology at Manchester University, Team Hydration’s idea aimed to use the existing North Sea infrastructure to product fresh water from seawater. This process would be powered by renewable energy in the form of tidal power with the produced fresh water going towards easing future UK water demands.
“The experience has been unique. More than anything, we gained a great deal of self-confidence and time management skills. To get our proposal to the level of detail required for the finals, a lot of research and co-ordination was required, as a team. We definitely got much better at this as we got further into the competition. Hopefully design projects for our degree course will be much easier to deal with now,” says Moore.
Edinburgh Innovators - finalists
Gareth Herron, Sam Walpole, Rory Griffin
Edinburgh Innovators is made up of three chemical engineering students from Edinburgh University. Their concept was to utilise the infrastructure available in the North Sea to facilitate the production of clean, renewable wave energy. Using the existing rigs as central hubs for multiple wave farms, they would convert the untapped wave power energy in the North Sea into electricity.
“What we’ve gained from this is the exact skills you’d want to have when you apply for a job, so just getting to the finals has paid off,” says Herron.
Team Blue North - finalists
Laura Crisp, Amelia Davies, Olivia Bentley
Imperial College London geology students, Team Blue North’s idea involves exploiting geothermal energy from oil and gas reservoirs and using this power carbon sequestration on platforms in the North Sea. This will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, while extending the life of the North Sea by using the existing infrastructure.
“I think we’ve picked up a whole suit of skills as the whole experience made us do so many different things. We’ve improved our public speaking and practised presenting to different target audiences. Most importantly we’ve learnt how to work together really well as a team, sharing the workload and being able to trust each other but have some one to fall back on at the same time as well as having fun. I think that helped us get as far as we did,” says Crisp.
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