The summons came at 9 a.m. Friday, and the executive committee of the False Wolfhelm Mining Limited filed a lawsuit. A few hours ago, they were asked to witness the crisis that erupted when a dam burst on the remote island of Asia, flooding several villages, killing hundreds of people and contaminating the region’s drinking water supply. The students received good news until 11:00 pm – a rumor mill in the area reported that Penn State researchers were unharmed.
The crisis continued for the next 24 hours, and student groups were assigned to address the growing problem.
“We received emails after email, after email,” said Roslen Martin, a graduate of energy engineering this spring. “The night was very stressful. I could not read and move on quickly.”
Roller Coaster Night was part of the Energy Crisis Management Challenge, focusing on problem management as a major project for the Energy Trade and Finance course at Family and Energy Engineering (EME).
Throughout the spring semester, students heard about the real industrial crisis, debates, and energy experts to prepare them for emergencies.
For her part, Shreya Manoj, a graduate of Energy Engineering this spring, said the whole class is a great opportunity for STEM students to immerse themselves in leadership thinking and prepare for teamwork.
“In that situation, it’s hard to imagine yourself. When you read case studies, you are not thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ “For someone who has actually been involved in a crisis, it is a valuable experience for them to follow through on their decisions and then pretend to be ourselves.”
The teams worked all night and until Saturday morning, preparing for board meetings and press conferences.
Experienced Penn State alumni and EMU faculty board members represented energy companies and professionals in the media, and the College’s strategic communications staff played a media role. Both the board and the media questioned the student group.
On Saturday, 24 hours after the first email, the exam ended, and the board judged the students on their results.
Manoe, who won the best personal performance, was grateful for the experience.
“I think there is a method that is often not learned for insanity, and I think this is why this course is different. You understand exactly what is required to make and act in those stressful situations.”
A.D. Liam Cummings, who holds a bachelor’s degree in energy engineering and a degree in energy business and finance in 2020, is a member of this year’s competition board. Cummings won the Best Individual Performance Award last year and has already seen its benefits in its first year.
“Participating and winning last year made me feel like I could handle anything that came my way. Especially being able to focus on stressful situations and learn how to prioritize.” Said Cummings. “As a board member this year, I have learned to chat with board members who have a long and exciting career. This was a great opportunity.”
The test was designed by Peter Rigby, a 1979 graduate of Penn State Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering and Energy Expert, to train students to strengthen their teamwork and leadership skills.
“Today’s employers are looking for people who can work together to solve multidisciplinary problems and who can work with people of very different backgrounds,” Rigby said.
Rugby believed in the value of practical experience and wanted to design a test that would force students to think on their own, defend their position, and solve unstructured problems. When he saw the student’s executive team working together, he was impressed with the results and for the most part, he sees success in the student’s future because of the ‘crisis’ leadership experience.
“This class offers a lot of non-traditional learning opportunities and the problem is a big car that pushes people into an unfamiliar experience, where they can experiment and make mistakes without consequences. It will be an experience that these students will never forget and will never forget.”