Women in MechSE observe steel industry behind the scenes

5/13/2022 12:37:53 PM Maddie Yang

Women in MechSE at a steel plantLast month, the Women in MechSE (WiM) registered student organization took a field trip to Cleveland-Cliffs’ Burns Harbor plant – the second-largest steel production facility in the country – on Lake Michigan in northwest Indiana 50 miles southeast of Chicago. Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest flat-rolled steel company and the largest iron ore pellet producer in North America.

The trip, organized by WiM’s newly elected president Emilia Carlson, featured a short presentation on the history of the Burns Harbor plant before a walking tour through their steel production facilities, giving students an understanding of working in industry and the kinds of roles and projects they might have as a manufacturing engineer in a large production plant. Students were also able to talk to other women engineers working in the plant about their experiences.

Women in MechSE at a steel plant“At the plant, it was really interesting to see some of the key concepts we learned in our courses come to life. The types of heat treatment and composition of materials closely represented what we were taught in our engineering materials class, ME 330. A lot of the processes we saw at the plant were essentially scaled up and industrialized versions of the processes we conducted in the ME 330 lab,” said Carlson.

Burns Harbor is surrounded by natural wildlife and the Indiana Dunes National Park. The plant itself is about five square miles and has many production facilities that the group was allowed to see first-hand.

Women in MechSE at a steel plant“We never ran out of buildings and processes to look at, from iron making, to hot rolling, to heat treating, to finishing and more. One singular manufacturing line used for heating and rolling out the steel that we saw was 3/4 of a mile long!” Carlson said.

WiM is an RSO in MechSE that aims to create a sense of community for women in the department. They host mentorship, social, professional, and technical development events as well as plan site visits and develop exhibits for Engineering Open House EOH.