Penn State had many reasons to be happy at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: the SPE student chapter was awarded Outstanding Student Chapter, Professor Russell Johns was lauded for his research and the Petrobowl team took third place, the highest in team history.
But for Aniruddh Sameth, a College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ (EMS) senior majoring in petroleum and natural gas engineering, it was a chance to see his dream reach fruition. SPE Cares, an international charity group he co-founded, began its first mission in Dubai, planting more than 200 trees with the help of dozens of volunteers.
The “Give a Ghaf” effort rooted the drought-tolerant tree celebrated for its cultural and ecological heritage in the Middle East in schools and other public places during the conference. Tree sponsors were sent pictures of the newly planted trees as a way to say thanks.
Sameth and co-founder Yogashri Pradhan, now a production engineer at the Texas Oil and Gas Institute, wanted to use SPE’s diverse pool of 168,000 members to exact change worldwide. So they created a largely self-sustaining community service initiative aimed at promoting, supporting and participating in charitable, education, humanitarian and social community services through SPE’s network of student chapters.
“SPE is such a global organization, and you have so many different students and professionals from all across the world,” said Sameth. “Not very many organizations have that kind of reach. There’s such an opportunity to expand that to community service.”
Sameth met the SPE Cares co-founder in Amsterdam while competing in the 2014 Petrobowl, a quiz show student competition held at the SPE conference, and the two began brainstorming. SPE International offered to help the group with social media and other promotional activities. A pilot Galveston, Texas, beach cleanup effort received positive feedback, giving traction to SPE Cares.
Last year, Sameth flew to Dallas to present the group’s ambassadors to SPE’s regional board of directors. From places such as Colombia, Nigeria, Scotland and Australia, the ambassadors oversee projects proposed by local and regional SPE chapters.
The long-term goal of SPE Cares is to be self-sustainable, relying on region representatives to oversee projects organized by university-level chapters. By next year, the group hopes to have an awards system in place to honor exceptional endeavors.
“There’s so many people who are also interested in community service," said Sameth. “Just to be able to have a platform where people can share what they’re doing across the globe, I think it will be great for the community and the oil industry.”