One of the class periods in my History of Creativity course at BYU focuses on the technology of oil. I do the following activity with the students:
- In 3 minutes write down all of the products that you could buy at a store
- Now, circle any product that is not “touched” by oil. I’ll give $100 to any student that can name such a product (the product cannot have any petroleum in it, can’t be produced by petroleum, transported by petroleum, consumed by petroleum, etc.)
So far, I’ve never had any student collect the $100. And that is not for a lack of trying.
The next activity is this:
- In 3 minutes record what major accomplishments or dreams you hope to realize in the next 1, 3, 5 or 10 years.
- Now, identify which of those dreams would be possible if you removed oil from the equation.
Most students then recognize that all of their greatest dreams are dependent on oil.
I do these exercises to help students recognize that oil is so pervasive in our lives and yet we often fail to think of it. It’s almost like oxygen. We use oxygen all day long with little to no thought. Life as we currently know it would be impossible without oxygen. So it is with oil. Life as we know it would be impossible without oil.
I challenge the students to use creativity and innovation to find ways to deal with the fact that currently our lives and dreams would not be possible without oil.