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UW Students Awarded Scholarships in Martin Knauss Experiential Energy Education Competition

January 6, 2023
group of people in front of huge piece of equipment
A group of University of Wyoming students recently toured L and H Industrial, an energy engineering manufacturing company in Gillette, as part of the Martin Knauss Experiential Energy Education competition. Students are, from left, Ryan Jardee, Franktown, Colo.; Kendall Klos, Chicago, Ill.; Dayton Reese, Brighton, Colo.; Montgomery Hughes, Claremore, Okla.; Kami Danaei, UW School of Energy Resources academic director; Eli Vigil, Castle Pines, Colo.; Zeinab Akbarishahabi, Bonab, Iran; Gavin Geertson, Gillette; Kieran McMullen, Castle Pines, Colo.; and Shaikh Zunaid, Khulna, Bangladesh. (Tom Dillon/L and H Industrial Photo)

Students in the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources (SER) and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences recently received scholarship awards as part of the Martin Knauss Experiential Energy Education competition.

The winners of the competition, receiving scholarships totaling $4,500, were:

-- First place: Ryan Jardee, from Franktown, Colo., with a dual major in petroleum engineering and chemical engineering.

-- Second place: Gavin Geertson, of Gillette, with a dual major in mechanical engineering and energy systems engineering.

-- Third place: Kieran McMullen, from Castle Pines, Colo., majoring in energy resource management and development, with a concentration in professional land management, as well as a dual degree in finance, with a minor in mathematics.

Sponsored by 1980 petroleum engineering alumnus Martin Knauss, the competition was administered jointly by SER and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences to help students “discover how Wyoming’s natural resources can be leveraged to produce energy, in all forms, for the betterment of Wyoming and the world.”

“The concept of this competition is absolutely brilliant, in that it engages students in hands-on experiences and reflection, the importance of which cannot be overstated,” SER Academic Director Kami Danaei says. “This experiential learning opportunity allowed students from both departments to tour multiple energy industry sites across Wyoming, interact with energy sector workers and, more deeply, understand Wyoming’s energy economy.”

“Not only did this experience allow students to connect their classroom learning to industry, but it also encouraged them to think outside of the box and propose innovative ways to move these efforts forward,” says Tyler Grabner, the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences’ associate director of career services. “Experience, reflection and innovative thinking are what made the energy sector in Wyoming what it is today, and this experience facilitated just that.”

During a one-month period, 10 students from both SER and the college attended industrial operation sites, including a wind power plant, solar facility, oil production site, drilling rig, industrial equipment engineering facility, coal-fired power plant and coal mine. The students gained a firsthand view of these industries to better apply the theory and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

In culmination of the experience, each student was required to submit a report on a chosen topic, detailing the process and challenges that come with it.

“The visits and discussions were as multidisciplinary and collaborative as the students themselves,” Danaei says. “The energy industry is multifaceted, and the competition reflected those challenges by examining not only the technical and the physical trials affecting energy development, but also the political and economic issues that accompany research and innovation.”

The competition kicked off with an energy discussion led by SER Executive Director Holly Krutka and Cameron Wright, the Carrell Family Dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The discussion set the scene for the energy facility tours around the state. Eugene Holubnyak, SER’s Hydrogen Energy Research Center director, followed with a conversation on hydrogen in the energy sector and its economic impacts.

“I have always believed that hands-on, boots-on-the-ground experiences are extremely valuable for students, and the Martin Knauss Experiential Energy Education competition provided just that,” Wright says. “Through the generosity of Martin Knauss, the classroom met the real world for these students.”

Tours and site visits were hosted in partnership with the Wyoming Energy Authority, True Drilling Co., True Oil LLC, 9H Energy, PacifiCorp, Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station, Western Fuels-Wyoming Inc. at Dry Fork Mine, L&H Industrial and Peabody at North Antelope Rochelle Mine.

“We are so grateful to the incredible industry partners that took the time to give these students such a special experience,” Krutka says. “This competition was a tremendous opportunity for them, and it really highlights how fortunate we are here in Wyoming to have such engaged industry partners that are invested in the education of UW students and for the well-being of the future energy industry as a whole.”

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