Appalachian Basin gets its own Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit for STEM students

Donna Wheeler

For the very first time the Appalachian basin will be getting its very own MOLU. The MOLU, or Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit, is a traveling exhibition run by the Oilfield Energy Center that teaches students in grades 5-8 about energy and the technologies and sciences involved with the oil and natural gas industry.

The MOLU has six individual stations comprised of four activities per station, creating 24 unique educational activities for students. Students travel around in pairs, spending a few minutes at each station learning, filling out an accompanying “MOLU Pass” and exploring the hands on materials – like a robotic arm and a microscope. Each session is around 90 minutes long, with pre and post visit materials to demonstrate the gained knowledge.

Cabot, Williams and Southwestern Energy sponsored the MOLU when it traveled to Pennsylvania and visited over 20 different schools across the northeastern part of the state over the last two years. Due to its popularity, Cabot, Williams, Southwestern Energy, Shell, and Schlumberger all collaborated to help fund the creation of a brand new MOLU. This MOLU, called the MOLU III, will be permanently stationed in Pennsylvania and brought to middle schools throughout the northeast.

Before this, MOLU I and II were only available in Louisiana and Texas. Since the creation of the MOLU I in 2008, it has visited almost 800 schools, bringing science to life for nearly 104,000 students. In addition, Cabot Oil & Gas, UGI Energy Services, and Williams collaborated to acquaint teachers and administrators in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties with the educational components needed for employment in the natural gas industry via the Oilfield Education Center (OEC). More recently, the MOLU III visited West Virginia for the very first time to educate students from The Linsly School in Wheeling at the end of October.

With the MOLU, students learn about many topics related to the natural gas industry like geology, engineering, physics, chemistry, history, environmental studies, and more. The MOLU activities correlate with Next Generation National Science Standards and are based around the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. The activities illustrate concepts that are often new to students like porosity, permeability, distillation, and thermal energy and how they relate to the energy industry.

The goal of the MOLU is to not only educate kids about the oil and natural gas industry but to also encourage interest in these career fields. According to an IHS report prepared for the American Petroleum Institute (API), there will be nearly 1.9 million direct job opportunities projected through 2035 in the oil & natural gas and petrochemical industries which speak to the continuing importance of these industries in the U.S. economy as a whole and to individuals and families looking for well-paying career opportunities. With Pennsylvania being the second largest producer of natural gas in the country, the state will be among the few that support this coming workforce demand. With that, it is critical to engage current students with interactive programs like the MOLU in order to encourage interest in the industry.

The MOLU is available to visit your school! To obtain a specific quote, make your reservation, or for more details, please contact Oilfield Energy Center at (713) 840-1753 or email at

For more information about the MOLU III, download the brochure.

Donna Wheeler is the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit manager.

Donna Wheeler

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