Letters 8/26/2010

Aug. 24, 2010
The older generation always seems to be picking on the younger folks

Oh those kids
The older generation always seems to be picking on the younger folks. And judging by our mail, the same holds true for engineers. According to some, most new engineers don’t know squat while the older ones look forward to solving tough problems and showing off their expertise in job interviews.

Finding competent engineers
The recent editorial (“How to find competent engineers,” June 10) included an anecdote I find hard to believe. How could anyone graduate with an IT degree without being able to write a program? This sounds too much like more of the “feel-good,” “self-esteem” education we seem to be getting here in the U. S. But I didn’t know this extended into colleges and universities.

What happened to this young woman is a tragedy. Her parents should find her some quick classes in C or C++ and Java, and Perl over the summer to “round out” her education and make her truly marketable. They should also send the bill for these remedial classes to the school that let her graduate with an IT degree and no ability to program.

I had an inkling the country was headed this way back when I started with IBM in the late 70s. I met people with tremendous qualifications, at least on paper. But when you asked these certified whiz kids to actually design or analyze anything, they looked like a “deer in the headlights.” Everything was beneath their exalted level of self-esteem.

Of course, it was a pleasure to work with the really savvy and creative engineers there and I stayed, at least until the company mottos changed from, “Think” and “Respect for the individual” to “Every moment here must be unpleasant.”

K. George Deitz

What I’ve seen at the nearby university is amazing. There appears to be two distinct groups of students; those partying and avoiding having to support themselves and the hardworking students, many from overseas, who do the heavy lifting in “group” (team-based) courses. I once stopped in the engineering library and saw only two U. S. kids, and they were reading People magazine. Otherwise I would’ve thought I was in Asia.

Paul Cadden

I am usually asked many technical questions when I interview, even after 25 years as an engineer. I appreciate this because I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t check up on its potential hire’s technical aptitude. It’s a real pain to work with (and for) people that have obviously padded their resumes.

Al Elgin

I tend to agree that students today are not exposed to nearly enough of what we used to think of as engineering fundamentals. For example, my high-school classes in electronics (back in the early 70s) were basic ac/dc fundamentals, including RF circuits. Talking to a service rep from another company who is currently taking college courses, I was rather shocked to hear that his schooling is geared mainly towards digital ICs. His coursework only skimmed over what I still consider the basics. Nothing about ac or dc power other than Ohm’s law. No ac impedance or RF tank circuits either, let alone basic oscillator and filter types. And analog design seems reserved for grad schoolwork. Needless to say, when yesterday’s high-school level courses trump todays entry-level college classes, I have to find this trend very saddening.

R. Budd

I just started a new job with an aerospace supplier as an entry-level mechanical engineer. I like the work and had the feeling I would when I discovered I had to take an engineering aptitude test online before earning an invitation to come in for a face-to-face interview. And in that interview, they had me whiteboard a few engineering problems. I was relieved to see the company was filtering out the group-project gravy-train riders I’d encountered in group projects as an undergrad.

Justin Winkler

Sarcasm for Safety
I sympathize with Lanny Berke’s experience in his plane (“A dogfight over light aircraft, “ Letters, May 20), where his backseat passenger pushed forward on Berke’s (the pilot’s) seat, propelling him into the control yoke. If my passenger pulls back strongly on the stick in my little 200-mph Lancair, it will probably result in the wings becoming disassociated from the plane and both my passenger and me plunging to our demise. The same can be said for my little 300ZX sport car, for if my passenger reaches across and grabs the wheel and causes us to shoot across the highway and into oncoming traffic, we two will probably soon meet our maker. It is unconscionable that such unsafe vehicles should be plying our skies and roadways. For shame, Roland Friestad, for not having foreseen conditions of this kind in designing your airplanes!

Paul Lipps

Just make it STOP!!
I enjoyed the article on the importance and application of emergency off/stop devices. Now if someone would only apply these same principles to home appliances. For example, how about a positive-off detent on that toaster oven that routinely gets left on all night? Or a panic button on the blender? And if your vacuum cleaner ever ate a throw rug, I bet you wish you could have a serious discussion with the idiot who invented the center-off rocker switch.

Darryl Van Son

Keeping it sustainable
In response to your blog on engineering and social justice (“Should engineering textbooks promote social justice?” June 30), I’d like to point out that here in the U. K., the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which is responsible for the C Eng classification, which is similar to PE licensing, requires engineers to design for sustainability. Engineers do have a responsibility to design safe products and that means safe for the environment long term. We’ve seen and are seeing the results of irresponsible design.

We need materials recycled so we can reuse them. There is not an infinite supply of stuff.

Chirs P.

Too tough for firemen
As a fire-station chief, I have my crew always reading fire-engineering magazines, as well as a host of other periodicals such as yours. In regards to the new advanced high-strength steels being made (“Driving vehicle designs toward steel,“ May 3), it seems our jaws of life (spreaders) and cutters will not be able to cut and spread this metal. So perhaps fire stations and rescue squads will have to find a new way to free victims trapped in tomorrow’s automobiles. Any suggestions?

Paul Cameron

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.

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