News Release

University of Oklahoma students take first place in National Geothermal Collegiate Competition

University of Oklahoma students designed a system of geothermal wells to heat and cool the Osage Nation’s 40,000-square-foot greenhouse

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Oklahoma

Team GeoTribe


Team GeoTribe from the University of Oklahoma

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Credit: University of Oklahoma

A group of University of Oklahoma students won first place in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2023 Geothermal Collegiate Competition. This is the second year in a row that OU has taken first place in the competition’s technical track.

Team GeoTribe consisted of Nabe Konate, Jose Aramendiz, Gurban Hassanov, Cesar Vivas and Vagif Mammadzada, graduate students at the University of Oklahoma. The students designed a system of geothermal wells to heat and cool the Osage Nation’s 40,000-square-foot greenhouse. The greenhouse was established during the COVID-19 pandemic as a solution to a breakdown in the Tribe’s food system. Team GeoTribe’s geothermal system will support efforts for native food sovereignty in Pawhuska, Oklahoma by alleviating the challenge of maintaining a constant growing temperature year-round.

“I am immensely proud of the students for all the hard work they put into the competition,” said Runar Nygaard, director of the Mewbourne School for Petroleum and Geological Engineering. “We believe geothermal is the next energy source that will change the energy mix in the U.S. the way solar and wind have done for the last couple of decades.”

The students worked closely with the Osage Nation on this project. “They’re looking for solutions we can actually use,” said Cody Vavra, an agroecologist and sustainable systems specialist with the Osage Nation. Vavra helped GeoTribe with logistics in the Osage Nation and guided them through rules and regulations related to the geothermal wells. Vavra said that if the students continue to connect with the right resources and secure funding the geothermal solutions would be beneficial to the Osage population.  

“Geothermal energy offers a valuable opportunity for the development of communities where fossil fuel resources are limited,” said Konate, a graduate student in the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Ecological Engineering.

Last year, the Sooners Geothermal Team won for their design to repurpose six abandoned oil and gas wells in Shawnee, Oklahoma to provide geothermal energy to 730,449 square feet of buildings. The area included parts of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and Potawatomi Nation jurisdiction. 

First place teams win $10,00, along with funding to host a community event to present their project.

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