Alberta Energy Challenge win for U of A Students

From Left: Fernandez, Thibodeau, Timmerman, Gupta

(Edmonton) From September 21st to 25th, students from the University of Alberta had the opportunity to be involved in a case study that lead them to participate in the 7th annual Alberta Energy Challenge. This competition is an international five-day intense case competition that happens at the University, along with other venues from around the city.

Globally, nine teams competed this year which included experienced professionals, master’s students, and MBA students. Akash Gupta and Austin Fernandez were this year’s representatives from the Engineering Faculty. 

Gupta, a Chemical Engineering student, and Fernandez, an Electrical Engineering student, were able to form a team collaboratively with B-com Energy and Environmental and B-com financial students Kellie Thibodeau and Luke Timmerman. Each with a vital role that lead to their first-place victory in the competition. This occurrence happened after discovering a “cross faculty” case study opportunity that was posted by the University. “It is important for engineers to explore cross faculty opportunities to further develop interpersonal skills and business acumen”, says Gupta. This said after thinking about their futures and considerations for their careers. “Working for a big oil company is not the only option. Consider becoming an entrepreneur after graduation using the extensive technical knowledge you have acquired through engineering” Gupta added.

These case studies are designed for students to broaden their learning ability outside of their programs focus. “I think it is extremely important for students to venture outside of their comfort zones” Fernandez exclaimed. “This is because it has helped me gain valuable skills such as public speaking, critical thinking, and team building skills which will all be important in my career.”

Each student within the group all agreed on the importance of venturing outside of their comfort zones and discovering new opportunities. The University has many options for cross faculty case studies, and are considered vitally important for students. “Employers find this valuable because it shows the qualities of a well-rounded individual” said Fernandez.

This year’s competition proposal was to find a way of bringing renewable energy into Alberta Oil Sands and, specifically, contribute to the Cenovous energy portfolio. The team worked tirelessly together to design a way for large tubes to be planted into the ground to create steam from soil that will then convert into reusable energy. Each student took a role from designing the initial layout, to the legal logistics, and staying within a feasible budget.

The Alberta Energy Challenge is one of the only international case competitions focusing on the energy sector. Teams are allocated 36 hour over a five-day period to complete their research. During this time, teams have very limited access to various student and professional consultants to help provide the most concise solution possible, given the vast extent of possibilities within the energy industry. “Alberta can be the sustainable energy provider for the future as long as we tap into the fresh mindset of this province’s young minds to continue innovating” explained Gupta.

Along with their win, the team was able to pitch what they believe is a revolutionary technology and, what they believe to be a major and positive impact for Cenovus and the province of Alberta. They were whisked around the province in a private jet, had multiple site tours for current SAGD operations and at a Packers Plus Facility. Fernandez finished by saying, “now I can say that I not only won the AEC 2016 competition at a master’s level, but also I was able to enhance crucial personal skills that will be helpful for years to come.”