Letters - 05/22/2008

May 22, 2008
After 31 years as an engineer, mostly at one large company, I urged my kids not to pursue engineering as a profession.

Abandon the profession
I failed with my oldest, who is going to study chemical engineering at U.C. Berkeley, and will likely fail with my younger son, who is showing brilliance in physics.

Why would I want to discourage my kids from engineering? Simply because it has so little clout in today’s society. Lawyers and doctors and business people have today’s clout and financial success. An engineer develops something profound, but the corporation gets the patent rights and the execs make all the money. IEEE, ASME, and other such engineer organizations are a joke compared to the AMA or ABA. IEEE and ASME should be a licensing bodies like the AMA, commanding more glory, power, and money for engineers. Lawyers often charge $350/ hr for their services. How much do engineers charge for theirs? Why the discrepancy? I believe it is solely due to the licensing structure and limits.

If we let doctors from other countries come here and practice unlicensed, what would happen to our medical profession? If a lawyer from any country could come here and practice law as they saw fit, what would happen to the legal profession? Yet, we do this with engineers all the time, driving down salaries, respect, and clout. Why?

I encouraged my kids to go into any other profession other than engineering for these reasons. Engineers are the Rodney Dangerfields of all the professions.

Bobbie Panelli

Isn’t it ironic that while Asia is overstating the credentials of their “engineers,” the U.S. is disregarding the importance of its own homegrown designers and engineers (“Want to compete globally? Education isn’t enough,” Feb. 21)?

Design engineering used to be considered the top of the engineering pyramid in many of our leading corporations. Now we are too often referred to by that loathsome term, “CAD operators.”

And I blame advances in CAD for much of engineering’s decline. As recently as 10 years ago, I directed a group of about four or five designers and drafters as the Product Design Engineer. But as solid modeling moved to the PC, I happily found myself doing my own modeling.

Unfortunately, these software advances made the job look easy and I have found that managers have developed the mistaken idea that product design is a lesser-valued skill than say, project planning or other nondesign activities.

Although I love design engineering, I have considered moving back into full-time project engineering (a lower skill in my opinion) to regain my old reputation.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Chinese and Indians have a bunch of low-cost CAD guys posing as high level design engineers.

W.C. Pezza

Green Mercury?
Green is good, if it stays green. If you listen to all sides, CFLs are boon or bust (“Are CFLs really a bright idea?” Jan. 24). If you listen to most in Congress, they will be hard pressed to explain what they voted for. The irony is that it would be so much harder to sell the CFLs if they were called by their real name, mercury vapor lights. I will not take sides with cost, life, or aesthetics. But I urge you to remember that mercury pollution was and still is, a principal concern. I am not a chemist, but we should ask the question: Where are we going to put the average 5 mg of mercury from each of these bulbs? Have we forgotten mercury poisoning, birth defects, dead fish in rivers, and recent toys recalls? What do we really know about the fluorescent bulbs and what is released when they break? Sure, power plants also pollute, but we have some control over single-point sources. But there’s little we can do about broken bulbs in the trash or on the streets. Has the EPA fallen asleep at the switch? Peter Ronay

Credit where credit is due
Photo credits for the two images in the March 20 issue were mixed up. The drum caption photo (page 45) should be Courtesy of Cyclone Aviation Products and the end effector image (page 48) should be Courtesy of CPS Technology Corp.

EDM no-no
I’ve been reading Machine Design for sometime now and I generally find the magazine quite interesting. Some are more interesting than others, as with the recent issue (April 10). On the very last page, I noticed a rather interesting technical glitch. Specifically, the small item on Artistic EDM states that “electrically conductive materials cannot be EDMed.” Interesting, given that electrical discharge is fundamental to the technique, and won’t occur with nonconductive materials. Perhaps that is a minor point, but I just “had” to comment.

Dave Wakefield

I just read in the latest issue where “electrically conductive materials cannot be EDMed”. I believe you mean nonconductive material such as various grades of plastic materials, i.e., nylon, acetal , vinyl, polyethylene, and similar materials. EDM will spark-erode any material that conducts electricity. Examples would be steel, copper, aluminum, and especially materials commonly used in making tooling for plastic and die casting.

William Frank

It’s a gas, man
In the article on heat exchangers (Scanning the Field, April 10), the editor uses the phrase “One fluid (or gas) . . “ The word fluid is nonrestrictive to liquids and it destroys our language’s nuances to not use the word fluid when that is what is meant. Check any decent dictionary. There was also an article several months ago in your magazine regarding tension-indicating bolt heads. It also used the word fluid when was really meant was liquid. And you are not alone. The medical profession is forever talking about the problems of having fluid in your lungs. My lungs are always filled with fluid since the atmosphere we breathe is a fluid, more precisely. It is a gas.

Please join with me against this erosion of the English language and use the right word rather than muddying the meaning by using imprecise words. In short, If you mean liquid, use liquid, and if you mean liquid or gas, use the term fluid.

Robert H. Russel

Gadget Guesses

That is a ship.


It appears to be a guided-missile cruiser.


A dual RIM-2 Terrier or RIM-8 Talos sur face-to-air missile launcher on afterdeck of a U.S. Navy warship, circa late 1960s.


The picture looks like a PT boat that was used in World War II in the Pacific, the type of boat John F. Kennedy served on.


Name that gadget
Be the first to identify this vehicle from a past issue of Machine Design and win a fabulous prize, along with the honor of seeing your name in an upcoming issue. E-mail entries to [email protected] and put “Gadget” in the subject line.

At least two readers knew the last gadget was the Gearing-Class destroyer, DDG Gyatt (DDG-1), the first guided-missile destroyer. But the first reader (by lesss than 2 hours) with the correct answer was Jonn Krell.

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