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Empowering STEM Educators: Summer Workshop for K-12 Teachers Shares Opportunities in Energy and Engineering

Two teachers in the foreground are standing over a cardboard box filling it with sand in a mining classroom at Statler College with others standing and sitting at desks in the background

K-12 teachers complete an 'Exploring for Petroleum' hands-on activity that models how uneven mineral and energy distributions guide petroleum and mining exploration practices (WVU Photo/Kaley LaQuea). 

K-12 teachers from across the Mountain State gathered this week for the 2024 Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia Science Teacher Workshop Series.

Story by Kaley LaQuea
Photos by Kaley LaQuea


Events held on Wednesday at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University opened an exchange of ideas to integrate STEM concepts into the classroom.

The workshop included a series of activities, aimed at providing tools and knowledge to inspire and engage students in the world of engineering and energy fields. Hands-on sessions allowed teachers to experiment with these tools and provide inspiration for how to incorporate these activities into their own classrooms. 

Participants had the opportunity to explore a range of facilities, touring the Lane Innovation Hub and different laboratory environments. Ilkin Bilgesu, associate professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering, led a session in Statler’s drilling rig floor simulator, showing how different areas of hydrocarbon production and reservoir drilling are simulated on campus.

Washington Irving Middle School teacher Mary Elliott attended the workshop to better equip her students with problem-solving and career readiness skills for a competitive future.

“I am looking to bring back some engaging lesson plans I can tie into opportunities available here in this state,” said Elliott. “I am so proud to be from West Virginia, and it's hard for my students to see opportunities that exist here. Having the chance to connect with the engineering school and work these into my yearly plan feels like a chance to have my students see they do not have to abandon home to have success in STEM.”

Oishi Sanyal, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, led a demonstration for an in-classroom activity that imitated the centrifugal forces that are at work in a hydrocyclone — machinery that can separate oil and sand and other sediment from water. Sanyal explained how teachers can simulate the same forces in the classroom to show drilling and mining concepts in action.

“I think a STEM focused education is key to being successful in the 21st century,” said Braxton County High School STEM teacher Ethan Backus. “Students with strong and diverse STEM backgrounds will be able to be part of an ever-evolving workforce and job market. I’m excited to learn about how others look at the challenges facing Appalachia and how we can address those in our classrooms.”

West Virginia teachers can find more information about Statler College outreach programs at:



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135