Giving Away Tested Steel to Benefit the Next Generation of Welders

Mark Derowitsch, Communications

December 22, 2020

Olsson’s Nondestructive Testing team (NDT) Steel Laboratory in La Vista, Nebraska, receives about 1,400 pounds of coil steel sample plates to test each week for a major client. The client receives steel in 50,000-pound coils, and when metal is rolled up that thick, its mechanical properties change. Our lab technicians test specimens taken from different sections of each coil for yield strength, tensile strength, elongation at fracture, and impact strength to see how much energy the steel can absorb before it fractures.

These tests are done to ensure the steel meets ASTM International standards for graded steel.

Our client sends us two or three plates from each coil that are 11 by 18 inches in size and range in thickness from 11 gauge to 1 inch. Our lab technicians test an area measuring about a square inch from each plate and then store the leftover material for up to five days in case additional tests are needed. After five days, NDT Steel Laboratory manager Mark Roland either recycled the steel or gave it a new life.

“At first, I didn’t know what to do with the plates,” Mark said. “I would take them to the scrapyard, but it literally cost me more money to recycle. It finally got to the point where I thought somebody should be using this.”

A meeting at our lab of the Nebraska section of the American Welders Society (AWS) solved the problem. Several employees on our La Vista NDT team are involved with AWS, including longtime members Rick Hanny and Eric Nordhues, who offered to host a section meeting at the lab in 2017. By chance, the meeting was attended by Christian Beaty, welding program chair at Metropolitan Community College (MCC).

Christian noticed the steel plates and asked Rick about them. Rick put Christian in touch with Mark, and the rest is history. Christian started making arrangements to have the plates picked up and delivered to three of the school’s campuses and to an MCC-sponsored class at Omaha Westside High School, so students in MCC’s welding technology program could use them to hone their skills.  

“They are the perfect size for our students,” Christian said. “The students use them to practice cutting, and, when we’re done, we recycle them. Everybody wins.”

A load of steel is picked up for students at Iowa School for the Deaf to use during welding class.

Students in MCC’s welding program go through about 20,000 pounds of steel each quarter for various coursework. Welding classes are held seven days a week at four different MCC locations, so students are practicing every day and night.

Using steel donated from Olsson allows MCC to keep costs down. And it’s good for the environment.

“To be honest, the pieces we get are the perfect size for our students to handle,” Christian said. “And it saves us several thousand dollars every quarter. We’re pretty fortunate at Metro.”

Sometimes, MCC’s steel stash is stocked full. When that happens, Mark, our lab manager, contacts area high school teachers who oversee trade programs to ask if they are interested in getting free steel for aspiring welders.

To date, we’ve given tested steel plates to Springfield-Platteview, Plattsmouth, and Ralston high schools, and the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Marksmanship Team.

Most recently, the Iowa School for the Deaf started using our test sample steel. The school trains students in many trades, including welding, and needed several items and supplies for its program.

And although Olsson doesn’t employ welders, Mark said he wants to do his part to promote the trade.

“Welders are in great need in construction and manufacturing industries throughout the U.S.,” he said. “I just wanted to try to help produce the next generation of welders because there is a big demand for more of them.”