A team of five graduate students representing the School of Geology and Geophysics at University of Oklahoma rose to the top level and won first place in the second annual IBA competition – but the 2008 AAPG Imperial Barrel Award program produced winners on all levels. The event was held at the recent AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in San Antonio.
The IBA program is designed to allow teams of students the chance to evaluate the petroleum potential of a sedimentary basin and to test their creative geological interpretations. This is all done within strict time limits of five-to-six weeks, with the results presented to – and judged by – an independent panel of petroleum industry experts.
Through this program, young explorers are motivated to develop their creative oilfinding skills at an early stage in their geological training, using real world data and working within a simulated industry environment, i.e. limited data, short study period and an even shorter presentation time.
From the original 34 university teams, 12 teams advanced to the global finals competition. On Friday preceding the convention these 12 teams competed in the semi-finals round for the chance to participate in the finals presentation the following day.
From that competition, six teams advanced to the final round, presenting to a new panel of judges on Saturday.
Suspense and anticipation lingered until the Student Reception and awards ceremony on Monday night. There, amid a crowd-filled room, IBA Committee Chair, Connie Mongold, announced the winning teams. In reverse order, they are:
- 6th Place – University of Louisiana- Lafayette.
- 5th Place – University of West Virginia.
- 4th Place – University of Alberta.
- 3rd Place – Texas Christian University ($5,000 prize).
- 2nd Place – Imperial College, London ($10,000).
- 1st Place – University of Oklahoma ($20,000).
All were recognized with a standing ovation and Olympic-style medals.
The first place team members are Elizabeth Baruch, Roderick Perez, Romina Portas, Carlos Russian and Carlos Santacruz, with Roger Slatt, faculty adviser. All are first year master’s students, and none have yet had company internship experience.
Their prize money will go into the coffers of the OU AAPG Student Chapter in support of student activities.
However, team member Elizabeth Baruch found the real prize of IBA to be the invaluable training.
“We faced situations that were completely new and required group commitment and support, making our own decisions about what we considered important,” she said, “and defining how the project had to be oriented gave us the feeling of an actual, everyday industry environment.”
Even those who finished lower in the competition found reason to cheer.
“It (IBA) means a lot more than I initially thought it would,” said Andrew J. Mumpy, a member of the University of Alberta team. “I had no idea how big of a deal this thing had become…
“This was the best learning experience I have had in university at any level,” Mumpy said. “I easily learned as much in those two months as I have in any class I’ve ever taken, and the team dynamics and strict deadlines really added to the value of the experience.
“Ideally, I think this competition would be a requirement for any student working on an advanced degree in petroleum geology,” he added. “Despite the fact that I had almost no previous experience doing this type of work, by the time IBA was over I felt like I would be comfortable going to work in an exploration department at any company.”
The competitiveness of the students’ presentations demonstrated the strength of the competing schools’ academic programs – and the unexpectedly exceptional performances by teams from universities with smaller programs or without traditional petroleum programs demonstrates that IBA is open to all schools willing to compete at the highest levels.
Recognition goes to the faculty advisers for their work in preparing their students for this rigorous competition.
All 34 universities will keep the IBA dataset for use as a curriculum development tool.
Judging Panel Winners
Key to the IBA learning experience is the role of the judging panel. Judges with titles such as senior marketing geoscientist, chief geoscientist, VP-exploration and president came from leading industry companies. Along with scoring each team’s presentation, IBA judges challenged, coached, encouraged and provided honest feedback.
Students came away knowing their presentation skills and understanding of geoscience had grown, regardless of their team’s competition ranking.
For some, serving as an IBA judge enhanced linkages between industry, universities and AAPG student chapters. For others the opportunity to serve as an IBA judge was a recruitment opportunity.
“I learned more about the students from watching them present and answer questions than I could have learned from a two-hour interview session,” said David Miner, manager of technology for Aera Energy LLC in Bakersfield, Calif.
Without our sponsors, IBA would not be possible. To the 37 sponsors worldwide who have generously given both in-kind and financial support for the program, we say THANK YOU!