Cookeville – Two first-place plaques now hang in a display case in Kittrell Hall at Tennessee Tech University, thanks to the hard work and quick thinking of undergraduates who recently competed in the 2022 GeoConclave.
Fourteen Tech students from the campus’ Geoclub traveled to Harrison Bay State Park in Hamilton County along with Philip Roberson, lab manager; and Gourab Bhattacharya, assistant professor of mineralogy and igneous/metamorphic petrology. They went up against students from Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of Tennessee-Martin for the annual event put on by the Tennessee Association of GeoClubs.
“It’s a series of academic events and non-academic events throughout the day on Saturday,” Roberson explained. “There are three identification events, a geologic mapping event, a hydrogeologic mapping event, and then there are field exercises where they are, for example, shooting bearings with a compass and pacing it out and drawing a little map of the area. That’s a very common field activity for geologists to do.”
Each school’s team in the GeoConclave is awarded points based on their performance in both the academic and physical events before finishing up with the Rock Bowl. The Rock Brawl is a rapid-fire question event that pits teams of four from each college against each other.
At the end of the day, teams can win a plaque for first place in the Rock Bowl and for first place in the overall GeoConclave event. This year, Tech took home both trophies. As part of their celebration of their win, the members of the team shared a pack of Mr. Pibb soft drinks. It was a tradition started by Wayne Leimer, professor emeritus, who would share the drinks with his students if they secured a win.
“I had a great time,” said Sydney Beltran of Memphis, who was this year’s GeoConclave team captain. “Not only do we get to meet geologists from other schools and see how other departments are run or other geo clubs are run, but we also get to test out our skills. It’s very rewarding to see how much we’ve learned.”
In addition to the first-place plaques, the Tech team also won second place in Mineral identification by Gabi Burke, first place in Rock identification by Kaiah Whited, second place in Fossil identification by E Vigil, first place in Geologic Maps by Sydney Beltran and first place in Hydrogeologic Maps by Ben Lane.
As it was Tech’s turn to organize the event, Roberson coordinated with the other schools to set up each individual competition. Each year a different college takes change and different professors set up each challenge. That way the events each year are slightly different, which keeps returning students on their toes.
“I think it’s for any student who is even remotely interested in geology,” Roberson said. “It’s a fun weekend for them because even if you’re not competing, you’re getting to know students in your field at other universities. You’re all going through school at the same time and will be graduating around the same time. You’re learning from your peer group.”