BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Down past the long rows of stalls hawking flame-resistant clothing and touting fracking and drilling technologies at a major oil exhibition in Bismarck, North Dakota earlier this week, a group of middle school students were promoting something entirely different.
Students from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — or STEM — program at West Fargo's Cheney Middle School were at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference displaying projects that focused on problems caused by or related to oil development, and calling for action.
The projects looked at issues such as natural gas flaring and some of the adverse impacts of the boom on towns — major topics of debate in the state. For each project, the students created online petitions calling on state leaders to take more action.
"I truly feel we need to embrace problems that we feel the impacts of," said Candida Braun, eighth-grade science teacher at Cheney Middle School. Braun told the students to come up with a problem related to oil, and find a realistic solution.
Eighth-grader Kristen Lorenz was part of a group looking at natural gas flaring — the practice of burning off natural gas, a byproduct of oil production.
Lorenz's group displayed a nighttime satellite image showing North Dakota's oil fields shining as bright as a metropolitan area.
"It's weird to see how much flaring is going on — and we could change it," said Lorenz.