A Memorial first: Graduate students best in the world in field development challenge

Jun 20th, 2018

By Jackey Locke

From left are the Memorial Aion Energy Team Larry Sandoval, Francis Mujica, Daniel Sivira and Jenny Kim.
A Memorial first: Graduate students best in the world in field development challenge

A team of Memorial graduate students has won the 2018 European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers’ Laurie Dake Challenge.

On June 11 the Memorial Aion Energy Team was one of eight international teams that presented fully integrated development and evaluation plans to a jury at the event in Copenhagen, Denmark. Memorial was one of two Canadian universities to compete in the final challenge.

The Laurie Dake Challenge began in 2011 as a method of promoting cross‐disciplinary geoscience and engineering integration within universities.

Multi-disciplinary teams, comprised of full-time geoscience and petroleum engineering students and one PhD student per team, compete for a grand prize and worldwide recognition.

A first for Memorial

Memorial teams have competed in the competition in the past, but have never made it past the first round. Until now.

Students Jenny Kim and Daniel Sivira, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and Larry Sandoval and Francis Mujica, Faculty of Science now hold the championship title in Memorial’s name.

“When Memorial University was announced as the winner and the organizer came to direct us to the stage, I think we were all in shock,” said Mr. Sivira.

“Everything stopped in that moment and there was only happiness. It is hard to describe the feeling – we were just all so grateful and proud to represent Newfoundland and Labrador and Memorial University so well on a world stage. It was truly an unforgettable moment.”

The challenge

The 2018 challenge began with 41 teams.

Each team was asked to submit a report of a development plan for geological data set to evaluate possible opportunities in an oil field. All teams were given the same data, which is provided by a different company each year.

“It was very challenging,” said Ms. Mujica. “This was real exploration work where we integrated our ideas and knowledge to find new opportunities.”

The Memorial group was one of 10 successful teams to advance to the next round of the competition, where the challenge was to create a three-minute video.

“Three minutes isn’t very long, so we found it challenging to explain the technical concepts in a way that people could understand in such a short time frame,” said Ms. Mujica. “We chose to do an interactive and graphical video.”

Their decision was the right one. In April, the students learned that had advanced to the final competition in Copenhagen.

The team members say the final round was the most challenging. They received additional data around three weeks before they were due in Copenhagen and were required to update their volumes, development plan and economics in time for the championship.

“There were no free weekends and lots of late nights and coffee,” said Mr. Sandoval. “However, we really enjoyed the entire process. We expected the technical level of all the teams in the finals to be very high and this inspired us to do our best to represent Memorial the best we could.”

Proud representation

As winners of the challenge, they received a cash award; toured the offices at Total, a major energy operator and the world’s fourth largest oil and gas company; were invited to the company’s scientific headquarters in Pau, France, to learn about the business and high technology facilities; and met with Total’s global chief geophysicist and engineers.

“We are a multi-disciplinary team and integrating our disciplines were extremely important,” said Ms. Kim. “This was challenging to do because we were always on a tight deadline, but the work we are each doing is interrelated and it made sense to collaborate every step of the way. We all learned more about technical details of other disciplines, but, most importantly, we learned so much about teamwork.”

The students say they “could not have done it” without the tremendous support from Dr. James, the team's faculty advisor, and their friends and family.


Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

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Tel: (709) 864-8000