San Jacinto College students took first and second place at the 2023 North American Process Technology Alliance Troubleshooting Skills Competition April 11 — the College’s sixth consecutive year to participate.
Hosted at the LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, & Technology, the competition saw 12 teams face off to earn the top spot.
The teams were tasked with troubleshooting a variety of energy industry-related scenarios using computer-based simulation and virtual plant environment software. Students also met with industry professionals and participated in hands-on experiences in CPET’s 19 labs.
All registered teams participated in an open round on Friday, with eight teams qualifying for the finals competition rounds on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our San Jac teams,” said Jim Griffin, CPET associate vice chancellor/senior vice president. “They worked hard in preparation for this national competition. These seven students are excellent examples of student success.”
Leading up to the event, the teams spent months training and preparing under the guidance of professor G.C. Shah. Student Derrick Bryan served as the first-place team’s captain.
“When they called our team's name, I couldn’t believe it,” Bryan said. “I know everyone at San Jac is very proud of us. I'm happy we got to show off the education we have been working so hard toward.”
After working on heavy equipment for years, Bryan was feeling burnt out. Through recommendations from friends and family, he found San Jac.
“After talking to some friends who’d gone to the College, they told me how much they liked what they were doing and the money they made,” Bryan said. “I decided to do some research. I live an hour away, and there are closer schools to me, but this one had the best program, hands-on labs, and instructors.”
Bryan — along with other first-place teammates Luis Alvarez, Justin Espinoza, and Austin Self — graduated in May and looks forward to a future in the petrochemical industry.
Currently working as an educator and coach, Self served as the San Jac Process Technology Club chair and maintained a 4.0 GPA during college.
“After the recent economic downturn and with a growing family, my wife and I began to consider careers that were more financially viable,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind putting 30 years in operations and then coming back to San Jac as a process technology professor. As for now, I’ve had a few interviews, and I hope to secure a job soon.”
The San Jac second-place team included Rueben Llanas, Zachary Burch, and Tyler Duke.
A history of success
San Jac has an established record with the NAPTA competition, also placing first in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
The standard-bearer of process technology curriculum, NAPTA maintains a comprehensive set of process technology textbooks used nationwide, audits U.S. process technology degree programs, and endorses those that meet its criteria. Several colleges have received the NAPTA endorsement, including San Jac.
"At NAPTA, we work with industry, educational institutions, and other stakeholders to develop a diverse, well-qualified talent pool to meet the needs of our industry partners,” said Shannon Burke, NAPTA executive director. “This competition promotes the development of important troubleshooting skills and serves as a venue for advanced process technology students to demonstrate hands-on skills in real-time.”
Enhanced problem-solving and troubleshooting skills help with students’ understanding and encourages them to be safer employees and better team players. All these traits are high on the list for employers in their search for entry-level employees.
“Troubleshooting skills are necessary for developing a highly competent petrochemical workforce in the U.S.,” said Burke. “These skills also help the workforce maintain consistent high-quality production, and contribute to the security, safety, and regulatory compliance of our facilities."
Participating teams were: