University of Southern Indiana

Interdisciplinary Team Collaborates in 2014 Alberta Energy Challenge

An interdisciplinary team of USI students recently traveled to Alberta Canada to compete in the 2014 Alberta Energy Challenge (AEC) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Team members were Adam Brothers, a management and marketing major, Zach Mathis, a marketing major, and engineering majors Ryan Elpers and Meghan Martin. Co-coaches were Jeanette Maier-Lytle, instructor in accounting, and Dr. Brandon Field, associate professor of engineering, who traveled with the team.

Twelve teams of students from around the globe entered the competition. Participants had 36 hours to research and develop a comprehensive and innovative solution to a real-time challenge presented by one of Alberta’s energy companies. Resources for the teams included access to the University’s databases and consulting opportunities with industry and academic experts. There was also an all-day tour of Cenovus Energy oil sands operation.

Final presentations of each team’s analysis, ideas, and solutions took place in a unique case competition format called “Texas Style.” Aaleem Jiwa, Co-Chair of the 2013 AEC, likens it to a board room: 2 minute intro, 20 minutes Q&A, 3 minute conclusion. “This is very different from any of the other competition teams I’ve coached,” said Maier-Lytle. “The Texas-style presentation was a new challenge for our students, but I think they performed very well in this type of environment. Our team did an outstanding job defending their position during the presentation.”

2014 Alberta Energy Challenge TeamGiving the presentation was Adam Brothers’ favorite part of the experience. “While the USI team was narrowly edged out from advancing to the finals,” he said, “I was encouraged to hear that several judges had us winning that round.” This was his third time being part of an international student team competition.

Students and faculty especially enjoyed the synergy created by the interdisciplinary team. “This was the first competition where we integrated business and engineering students, and I was astounded by how well they worked together in preparation for this competition,” said Maier-Lytle. “This could be the beginning of many future collaborations with engineering faculty and students. Dr. Field was an excellent co-coach for this competition.”

The challenge is hosted by the University of Alberta School of Business and the Commerce Energy and Environment Group, and draws student teams from around the world. This is the fifth year for the challenge, and it is the first year that a team from USI has participated. “I really enjoyed our hosts and meeting students from other universities. Even though we were competing against each other, it was a fun atmosphere to be in,” said Zach Mathis. “We were also able to share the differences between our cultures with students from as far away as Finland and China.”

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