Sharpe: Engineering mentorship seeking exothermic students

George Sharpe
Energy Magazine
George Sharpe, Merrion Oil and Gas investment manager

Have you ever been to a gathering where someone seems to just suck the energy out of the room?  Just like chemical reactions, people tend to be either endothermic or exothermic. 

In high school Chemistry class we learned that an endothermic reaction is one that absorbs energy (water evaporating, which absorbs heat), while an exothermic reaction is one that gives off energy (combustion of gasoline, which creates heat and energy).  Yes, endothermic people are takers who give little back in return, while exothermic people add energy and value to life.  

Unfortunately, if you are following the world on Twitter, it is obviously trending endothermic. Back in the day before Energy made our lives easy, you had to be exothermic to survive. If you didn’t get up to milk the cows and tend the chickens, there was nothing for breakfast.

Now we can order our groceries online and have them delivered to our door by Amazon. There was a day long ago when kids actually went outside to play and entertain themselves. Now they don’t have to move from the bean bag chair, as their entertainment is generated by an i-phone or a computer screen. The Pixar film WALL-E portrayed a world where robots did all the work and humans had evolved into blobs of fat incapable of doing anything for themselves.  Mankind appears headed for this endothermic future.  

Meg Mullins and Melanie Kemp try to convince T Greg and Connie Dinning that their bid price is the bomb.

Luckily, there are still some Exothermics in the world. I know because every year, 25 or so of them choose to take my Engineering Mentorship program at Merrion Oil & Gas.  The Exothermics are the busy ones. They are the ones taking three AP classes on a full load.  They are the ones playing multiple sports, running for student senate, leading the ROTC programs, and participating in clubs and activities. 

Exothermics are involved in scouts or their church youth group.  They are the ones volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club or in Big Brothers Big Sisters, trying to make the world a better place.  The students in my program don’t have the time in their busy schedules to participate… they MAKE the time. 

By making the time, I mean they forego an extra hour of sleep one day a week to attend the program.  Classes run each Wednesday in the fall semester from 7:00 to 7:45 a.m. before school.  I’ve heard that sleep is even more important than pizza to your average teenager, so there is certainly a sacrifice involved. 

It is like getting up to workout, only instead of their biceps, they are working out the most important muscle in the body… their brain. Just like a golfer doing bench presses, many will never directly use what they learn in the class in their future endeavors. 

Only about half my students actually go into engineering, and very few of those go into Petroleum Engineering (I recommend Mechanical, Chemical, or Electrical over Petroleum any day).  But even the ones who go into medicine or business or teaching are mentally stronger for the brain workout, their mind stretched by the struggle of solving a problem. 

A little morning brain stretch at Merrion Oil & Gas.

And that is what they do… solve a problem.  A real one.  In this case, the problem is determining the economic value (buy price) of a well or property.  Through the year, I teach them four simple tools used to forecast the future production from a well.  They then build a cash flow analysis spreadsheet that helps them turn their production forecast into dollars and cents. 

Working in teams of two or three, their final project is to evaluate a property that is for sale in an auction to come up with a bid price. They then make a formal presentation to T Greg Merrion (the big cheese) and Connie Dinning (our evaluations engineer), justifying their analysis and their recommended bid.  Then we actually try to buy the property, real time, real money, real world. While we aren’t always successful, last year we purchased an interest in a gas well for $100,000.  Life doesn’t get any more real than that.  

We are in the middle of signups for this year’s program, and there is still room for a dozen or so more bodies at the table. College or high school students interested in the program should contact me at 505-402-5798 or by email at gsharpe@merrion.bz.  Only Exothermics need apply.  

George Sharpe is an investment manager for Merrion Oil & Gas of Farmington.