Students from across the country now have a chance to collaborate on ways to produce Alaska’s heavy oil.

Participants in UAF’s Petroleum Engineering Challenge will solve the problem of producing heavy oil from a typical North Slope reservoir. The thick, dense oil isn’t easily extracted with traditional production wells.

The winning team will be awarded a minimum of $2,000. Teams must have two to five students from multiple colleges or universities to qualify. More details can be found at


The challenge is coordinated by Obadare Awoleke, assistant professor of petroleum engineering at UAF, as part of a project within the Chancellor’s Innovation in Technology and Elearning program. This special project requires the creation of an online community where students can build teamwork skills.

“I want to promote inter-university collaboration among petroleum engineering students,” Awoleke says. “The technology is there for students to look beyond the university walls and share knowledge.”

Petroleum engineering is still a specialized degree, with fewer than 25 universities in the United States offering the major. Students studying the degree learn the significance of drilling, production, reservoir engineering and evaluation throughout their engineering courses. As extraction of hydrocarbons remains a complex problem, it is important that students learn to partner with one another and develop skills and expertise that will be useful in different geographic areas.

In conjunction with UAF eCampus, Awoleke has created a Google+ community for this purpose:

Owen Guthrie, an instructional designer at UAF supporting the project, adds that the challenge will be a launching point for the online community.

“We hope to not only create a collaborative community experience for the duration of this project, but also to create sufficient momentum in our Google+ Petroleum Engineering Research community that it begins to take on a life of its own and has lasting value for students and researchers alike,” Guthrie said.

The deadline for initial submissions is Dec. 1, 2014.