U. S. Engineers and crazy gears

Feb. 4, 2014
Readers are still taking a letter writer to task who proclaimed the U. S. had too many engineers and advocated cutting back on making any more.

Readers are still taking a letter writer to task who proclaimed the U. S. had too many engineers and advocated cutting back on making any more. And a sharp-eyed engineer noticed the gears on the cover of our Salary Survey issue (Oct. 10) were intermeshed such that they couldn’t operate. Maybe it is an unwitting metaphor for the state of engineering training, experience, and salary.

We need more engineers

I read Joe Iaquintio’s letter (Nov. 21) with a chuckle and a smile on my face — until I realized he was serious. “The world does not need American engineers? …we have created all the engineering work we need to satisfy society?” That reminds me of the statement supposedly made by the Commissioner of the Patent Office in the late 1800s: “Everything that can be patented has been.”

It appears Mr. Joe Iaquintio lacks imagination. There are far too many new products being introduced to the market which were designed by engineers with imagination: iPads, Keurig coffee makers, Dyson vacuums, UAVs and other weapons that keep our armed forces safer, and robotic surgical devices. Engineers need imaginations to develop these marketable products.

In addition, every day we lose engineers to retirement. These are the engineers who put us on the moon and developed the many products we enjoy and rely on today. We need to replace them.
I would postulate that the more engineers we produce and train, the greater the chances they will develop products society may not realize it wants, yet. Who knew we needed a new coffee maker before it was introduced? America also needs to manufacture the products we develop. We can’t improve people’s lives by shuffling money around in the financial world.

Vernon Lowry

Are idiots ever safe?

I have about 20 years of experience in forensic engineering and have worked on a variety of cases — from work-site injuries and fatalities to playground mishaps. In many cases I have found the injured parties did not use the equipment according to design specifications (“Is Your Design Reasonably Safe”? Nov. 7). There is a fine line between making designs foolproof and making them idiotproof. In the former case, it results in a good-to-excellent design. In the latter case, safety can trump use and cost, resulting in an overdesigned, expensive, and virtually unusable product. Most idiotproofing should be built into the operating instructions and designers could use this as the starting point in their safety factor.

Anthony de Sam Lazaro

The future is Mechatronics

In the Interview with Chris Hetzer (“Bright Future for New Engineers,” Dec. 12), he made an accurate observation of the multidisciplinary demands on design engineers. However, he made this observation some 50 years late. It has been my experience that single discipline engineering has long been the exception rather than the rule. I have done engineering for an international corporation and headed up a number of automation consulting companies. In all of these environments, a working knowledge of mechanical, electrical, electronic, pneumatic, and production methods were required.
I agree with Mr. Hetzer that the curricula in engineering studies has been slow to acknowledge this need, and hopefully “mechatronics” will be the future of our engineering disciplines.

William Eburn

Cover clash

On your Oct. 10 cover, you show three intermeshed gears representing the interworking between training, experience, and salary. Surely a magazine which calls itself Machine Design knows these gears are permanently locked up and can’t operate.

Bill Steiner

Good Catch. Art Director ≠ Engineer

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