Minimizing Waste and Connecting With the Community at Nucor Steel in Seattle
Master’s student Rochelle Samuel connected with Nucor Steel at a campus info session and the College of Engineering's Technical Opportunities Conference. She spent her summer working as an environmental engineering intern at their steel plant in Seattle.
CEE: Tell us about the work you were doing for Nucor.
When I started my internship at Nucor Steel in Seattle they were preparing for an environmental corporate audit. Environmental engineers from the corporate office come in and do a major internal environmental inspection.
As part of that audit I edited and updated the company’s environmental plans so they’re up to date and in line with EPA regulations, as well as redeveloped a database that detailed hazard information for each type of waste generated.
I also worked on a waste minimization project where I figured out how many waste streams the company had, how much waste each one generated, how much it cost, and how to minimize those different factors.
In the end I found an opportunity to minimize waste and cost, with potential savings of up to $150,000 annually.
The Nucor Seattle plant was actually very interesting because it’s the only steel plant I know of in the U.S. that’s located in an urban area, so we had a heightened environmental awareness and heard from the public a lot.
Because of that, I think, our plant in particular was out in the community a lot and I was involved with a lot of public outreach. I went to a lot of meetings with community groups that the company supports, like the YMCA, and wrote environmental fact sheets to send out to the public.
CEE: How did you connect with Nucor for this internship?
I stumbled on one of their information sessions at CMU and I really liked the company and what it stood for.
I emailed the recruiter that I met and sent them my resume. A week later I saw Nucor at the Technical Opportunities Conference, and ended up having a good conversation with the recruiter.
That night I was called back for an interview.
CEE: What was your favorite part of your internship?
I think the whole experience was very eye-opening and challenging.
I had never worked a manufacturing job before, and seeing how much work that the environmental engineers put into understanding the plant and the manufacturing process really showed me how well-rounded environmental engineers have to be to work in whatever field they’re in.
CEE: Were there any CEE classes that helped to prepare you for this internship?
I took Sustainable Engineering with Professor Jeanne VanBriesen and Civil Systems Investment Planning and Pricing with Professor Scott Matthews my first semester here. Those were the hardest I’ve taken in grad school, but they were very, very rewarding. I still use the tools I learned from both of them in the classroom and out.
Both classes taught me the importance of understanding and incorporating your client's decision factors into the solutions you propose. It’s a matter of accomplishing environmental goals by helping a client realize the benefit to them.
At Nucor, I was trying to minimize the waste they were generating, and I presented that with the amount of money they could save while having a lesser impact on the environment. These two efforts do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Matthews’ class taught me how to present data and results, and my presentation at Nucor was maybe the best presentation I’ve ever given because of what I learned in his class and because I was able to present the data in a way that would connect with them.