E-Week: Refinery engineers share insights and encouragement with students

Community News

sustainability, Foundation, people, Kenai, Alaska, Mandan, North Dakota
Students at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District lay out their spaghetti tower structure created with spaghetti noodles and mini marshmallows.

A group of Marathon Petroleum refinery engineers brought Engineers Week to life for students. Known as E-Week and observed Feb. 19-25, the event promoted the theme—Creating the Future—recognizing the vital role all types of engineers, including chemical, mechanical, civil and electrical engineers, continue to play in making our world a better place.

Engineers at Marathon Petroleum’s Kenai refinery in Alaska and Mandan refinery in North Dakota took the theme to heart and worked to inspire students considering a future in engineering.

“When students connect what they are learning in class to real-world career opportunities, you see them light up and engage in incredible ways,” said Joel Burns, science teacher at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. “We love having the engineers here to share their experiences with our students. It’s exciting when students start to really consider what they want to be when they grow up and see a path to get there.”  

Refinery engineers visited multiple elementary and middle schools to host STEM-based engineering activities. The Kenai refinery’s Women’s Employee Network chapter organized visits at six schools on the Kenai Peninsula. Students at Kenai Middle School, Aurora Borealis, Skyview Middle School, IDEA Homeschool, Cook Inlet Academy and Homer Middle School learned about basic engineering principals through a spaghetti tower building exercise. They used spaghetti noodles and marshmallows to construct freestanding towers. The students learned to work together to problem solve, design and test their ideas, which are all key skills in engineering.

In Mandan, the refinery received compliments from teachers for what has become its annual support of E-Week.

"A chemistry instructor let me know several former students commented on how engineer presentations over the years influenced their decisions in college,” said Advanced Environmental Engineer Chris Hanson, who helped coordinate this year’s presentations at four high schools across Mandan and Bismarck as well as the Bismarck Career Academy.

The impact that can come from directly engaging with students is evident among the refinery’s presenters. Area Team Leader Jamie Kautzman and Refining Engineer Ted Wald were paired with Mandan High School where they both graduated. Additionally, Refining Engineers Sarah Kempin and Alyssa Weinhardt were both interns with MPC before becoming full-time employees at Mandan. Mandan’s other E-Week presenters were Advanced Environmental Engineer Jesse Roth and Refining Engineer Craig Steffan.

The presentations largely focused on the education and skills involved in becoming an engineer and provided informational references to students, such as the National Engineers Week website.

Mandan Advanced Environmental Engineer Jesse Roth speaks at Century High School in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he presented to approximately 160 chemistry and physics students over several class periods.