Amazement shined in the eyes of one fifth grader who was taking a closer look at microorganisms. On the other side of the room, another laughed as she operated a robotic arm.
The two students, plus dozens of others in their grade, were able to receive a unique STEM experience on Monday at Harvard Elementary School, 810 Harvard St.
They got to spend an hour-and-a-half with a Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit (MOLU), a hands-on exhibit containing six stations that taught kids about energy, technology and scientific methods used in the oil and natural gas industry.
“We take the oil field to the classroom,” said Sandra Mourton, the executive director at the Oilfield Energy Center.
The MOLU is brought to a school for a day. Each MOLU has six stations and four activities, providing 24 oil-and-gas-related activities for the kids to enjoy.
“It’s geared toward fifth graders because it complements their curriculum,” Mourton said. “It’s learning while doing, rather than just a textbook. They touch and play and get more of a feel for it. Reading needs to be done, too, in cognizant with the on hands.”
The MOLU that made a stop at Harvard is one of three the Oilfield Energy Center uses to expose students to the industry. The other two are currently in different states.
The cost to have a MOLU at the school is $1,500, but Mourton said usually the visit is sponsored. The stop at Harvard was part of a 50-school tour across Texas, all sponsored by the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA). The MOLU is on its seventh week of the 10-week tour across the state.
“Increasingly so the oil and natural gas industry is high tech and innovative and we need to spark that interest and that passion as early as we can so we can fill those jobs in the future,” said Caroline Conte, the director for community affairs at TXOGA. “There’s nothing more important than giving back to our students and our communities.”
Both the Oilfield Energy Center and TXOGA hope to enlighten students to how much the oil and gas industry impacts our everyday life. Part of that is showing them, for example, how the sedimentation process works, taking a closer look at drill bits or looking at the process of distillation.
“I didn’t know that they used sedimentation to get the oil out,” said Suzanna Paez, a student at Harvard. “I thought they just drilled a hole in the ground and pumped it up.”
Doris Tomas, the education director at the Oilfield Energy Center, also hopes to negate the negative connotations the oil and gas industry can have. She mentioned that some people don’t understand how many products are made through the industry. Pantyhose, toothpaste and toothbrushes are just a few of the 6,000-plus products that are made.
“I think a lot of students look at electricity and energy and they think it’s just there and they don’t know the science that went into getting it out of the ground,” Conte said.
She hopes that the MOLU is able to help them connect the dots in the future.