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Students become oil prospectors for a day





From exploration to totaling up expenses, Cheryl Shepherd-Adams' senior advanced physics class at Hays High School got a crash course in the oil business Tuesday morning.

Marty Patterson, president of Rome Corp. and Western Well Service and a USD 489 board of education member, gave the students a step-by-step look at the process.

With the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association mid-year meeting in Hays later this week, it's a good time "to show them how important math and science are to get a job in Ellis County," he said.

"You're advanced seniors. You're the top of the crop here at Hays High," Shepherd-Adams said.

Using general and detail specific maps, Patterson demonstrated how he and other prospectors determine the likeliest spots to find oil.

Using technology, "we can map the underground just like you look at it on the surface," Patterson said.

"We've really upped the technology with math and science. That's exactly what you're learning in class right now."

Much of the knowledge and expertise comes from petroleum engineers, which is the No. 1 degree coming out of college, he said.

It's not uncommon for a drilling project to take more than two years from start to completion, but the payoff can be excellent.

With the price of oil at nearly $100 a barrel, math and science majors are in high demand, he said.

"They can afford to pay petroleum engineers salaries of $80,000 to $90,000 a year," Shepherd-Adams said. "The average salary being about $140,000 a year, according to Department of Labor Statistics."

Students' math skills came into play as they figured out the production of one of Patterson's functioning wells, as well as business expenses such as the landowner's royalty, overhead costs and taxes.

Classroom presentations such as Patterson's show students "there's a lot of career opportunities," Hays High principal Marty Straub said.

Vincent Dailey, who's planning to study mechanical engineering, found the presentation interesting.

"The good news is because you've taken this class and that calculus class, you're ready to start that engineering program. If you hadn't done that, you'd have to take some remedial classes when you get to college," Shepherd-Adams said.