The West Virginia University Mine Rescue Team does more than just train students to compete in mine rescue competitions – it has also given many students the opportunity to make connections in a tight-knit industry.
Travis Hartsog, a 2011 mining engineering graduate, created the team, which was officially recognized by the University in January 2012. Since then, it has grown to more than 20 members.
The two-year-old student-run organization trains students to compete in mine rescue competitions against both industry and collegiate teams all while developing an environment for members to share ideas and form friendships.
Hartsog, called the “father” of the team, said the team gives its members “great connections with great people and to a brotherhood that is unlike any other.”
With WVU being in the heart of coal country, the team members and friends realize how important this training is for their future careers in the industry.
Current president Tyler Jackson, a senior from St. Albans, W.Va., explained that the competition training is designed to yield the best score.
The team’s primary training location is at the Mine Technology and Training Center in Ruff Creek, Pa., under the guidance of Mike Reese. It also trains at the Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies, run by the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources’ Department of Mining and Industrial Extension, at Dolls Run.
The team has only competed once, at the MTTC Mock Emergency Response Drill last April. Despite being a new team and having never competed before, WVU finished eighth out of 15 teams.
In addition to training, the team also brings in speakers from the mining industry to talk about the more serious side of mine rescue.
Jackson said that while the goal of the competition is to win, the skills learned may also be needed when responding to a mining disaster.
Team members also volunteer at competitions around the area, including the National Mine Rescue Association Post Five Rescue Competition, held at Mylan Park in August.
Jackson said the team plans to compete more this year, and has been invited to do an exhibition against Penn State at the Pittsburgh Coal Mining Institute of America meeting in October.
The team is open to students who are in the mining engineering program and have mining experience. Students who have an interest in learning more about mining can also join the team with approval from the team’s officers.
Team members are quick to point out that there is a spot on the team for anyone who wants to put in the work.
“Any position on the team is doable…we all try to do what we can to make sure you have a spot on the team,” Jackson said.
The team operates almost entirely on donations and all of its equipment has been donated by companies in the mining industry. Jackson and Hartsog said companies have been eager to help the student-run team.
“It gives coal miners in this area someone to cheer for,” Jackson said. “It’s almost like their own kind of league within their industry.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon; Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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