Today, a team of eight students from West Side High School in Houston emerged victorious from the first annual High School Offshore and Technology Stars Challenge, which was co-hosted by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) at the University of Houston. Other participating schools include Energy Institute High School, Charles H. Milby High School and Young Women’s Preparatory Academy.
BSEE Director Brian Salerno welcomed the students to the Technology Challenge, with a strong message of encouragement for the young competitors. “Experts have projected that there will be a workforce need of one million additional science, math and engineering graduates by 2022,” said Salerno. “This is very exciting for you as you get ready to graduate – the U.S. needs you to help meet the needs of our nation.”
During the challenge, the students collaborated within their teams to design and build an energy harvesting circuit based on NASA-developed piezoelectric technology, which generates an electrical charge when it vibrates or bends. The circuits enabled the teams to charge battery packs for remote control helicopters, which they then flew through a course on the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium football field, accumulating points for course completion and the distance their helicopters flew in an eight minute period.
Team Underdogs’ performance in several challenges won them the championship. They successfully piloted their helicopter, simulating travel to and from an offshore oil platform, for a total distance of 750 yards. They defeated 14 other teams to claim the $2,500 grand prize, as well as a $1,500 teaching grant for their school. They also have an invitation from BSEE to attend this year’s Offshore Technology Conference in May and be recognized for their achievement.
“We must prepare all students, including girls and minorities who are underrepresented in these fields, to be proficient in STEM subjects. But more importantly, our event today is meant to inspire students to learn and motivate many of them to pursue STEM careers,” said Mike Farber, BSEE Senior Advisor. BSEE and OESI will expand the High School Offshore and Technology Stars Challenge to include New Orleans next year, and to other cities including Washington, DC, in the years to come.