Rebekah A. Smith – 2022 Steel Intern Scholar
With the drop of a charge the space above the electric arc furnace is lit with fire and sparks—a display of instant “fireworks.” Soon after, flashes of blue light mingle with the flames as the electrodes begin initial bore in. Sparks fly. I was told that a common first reaction to watching an electric arc furnace in action is to wonder what you’ve got yourself into. I found myself wondering how I could ever leave!
This summer I worked as the melt shop metallurgy intern for Steel Dynamics Inc. – Structural and Rail Division, Columbia City, Ind., USA. The experience was invaluable and from that first day in the pulpit, I was hooked. The process and applied metallurgy are captivating, and the team at SDI was phenomenal in both their willingness to help me learn and their emphasis on the safety required to work around the furnaces.
The beginning of my internship was spent gaining a deeper understanding of the steelmaking process and digging into production data to understand what conditions could be considered ‘normal’ in order to identify what was not. Within the meltshop, I learned the importance of good slag practices and how to evaluate furnace inputs such as carbon and scrap. I learned how to investigate and analyze data, looking beyond general trends to data collection methods, and allowing data to drive decisions. My projects took me out on the production floor and led me to conversations with shift workers and industry professionals alike. It was through these interactions with team members across multiple disciplines and educational backgrounds that I learned the critical role of effective and flexible communication. Some of my favorite moments from the summer were spent working closely with the furnace operators and lab technicians to learn from their firsthand experience of the process. I was impressed with the effort that everyone put forth to ensure my safety while in the shop, and it was evident that safety awareness is not just a priority but a core value of the team. Throughout the summer I was amazed by the dedication of the team and inspired by the values that were upheld on every level.
I am incredibly grateful to both AIST and SDI for providing me with this opportunity to gain industry exposure in such a hands-on and personal way. The internship has sparked a passion in me, affirmed my career plan and provided an environment for growth.