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Thread: From MCADCafe newsletter 31 October 2005

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    Certified AUGI Addict jaberwok's Avatar
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    Default From MCADCafe newsletter 31 October 2005

    I just read a very interesting article entitled "Does Engineering Matter and is Free Trade Really Free?" at the following link: http://www10.mcadcafe.com/nbc/articl...ticleid=216292

    The author, Stephen J. Schoonmaker, brings up several good points and places a deserved amount of blame for the current state (or lack thereof) of engineering and manufacturing on various government agencies and policies. He has received several responses from readers that support his contention.

    I think that Mr. Schoonmaker's essay is an extension of correspondence he and I had with regard to the Commentary I wrote for the October 17 edition of MCAD Weekly, entitled "With Few Options And An Uncertain Future, Delphi Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy"

    That was an emotional Commentary for me to write for a number of reasons. First, I'm from the Detroit area and still maintain an office and a residence there. Second, I went to college there and earned a degree in industrial design. Third, I'm actually a union member - UAW Local 1981 - the National Writer's Union. This background and people I come in contact with just make me wonder what the bigger implications are for mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing in this country - whether innovative or at all.

    Delphi's (and now GM's) serious problems have prompted heightened discord between salaried employees and UAW members on who is to blame for the woes at Delphi and the American automotive industry in general. While there has been a lot of the finger-pointing in the between those two groups, no one seems overly concerned with the party (pardon the pun) who may be the real root cause of the problem - the government.

    In response to his question, "Does Engineering Matter?," it sure doesn't seem to in this country anymore. We interest and graduate only a fraction of the engineers that countries like china and India do, and the disparity grows every year. Just this morning I read a Reuters news story entitled, "Is U.S. Becoming Hostile To Science?" It described the bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence and is a warning sign that science itself is under assault and an issue with severe long-term consequences, because a good foundation in math and science is essential for pursuing engineering.

    This all hits even closer to home for me because I have been a substitute high school math and physics tutor, but the school district has cancelled geometry, trigonometry, and elementary calculus due to lack of interest and enrollment. Algebra is now the highest level of math taught now. Chemistry and physics are combined in a watered-down class, largely because of the lack of math exposure to understand anything beyond the most basic of principles. I'm told this trend is occurring all across the country.

    To further the negative sentiment, I was approached by a local community college to teach Mechanical CAD and Fundamentals Of Mechanical Design, but both were cancelled, again due to lack of interest. All very sad, but a statement on the perceived value of technical/technology education in an industry that is in serious decline and dying.

    In response to the other half of Mr. Schoonmaker's question, "Is Free Trade Really Free?," I have to answer, "No." The way our government has set it up, so-called free trade has been paved as a one way street that benefits other countries much more than it benefits our country's manufacturers. Eventually, and in the not too distant future, we're going to see not just "Made In China," labels on products, but "Designed and Engineered In China." Are we relegating ourselves to just logistics, distribution, and consumption of products - the Walmart model on a national scale? It sure appears that way because we continue to consume more but actually produce less in this country. It's not only a sad statement, but is contributing to what I consider to be "The Continuing Fall of America" as an innovator and leader in engineering and manufacturing.

    So what's going to come of all this? I don't honestly know, but as I said in my last commentary with regard to manufacturing - some things will be better, more will be worse, but all will be different. I hope that thought-provoking essays like Mr. Schoonmaker's continue so that an ongoing Discussion Forum can be created to attempt to address and resolve issues in the mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing space.
    John B

    "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe." - Carl Sagan

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    BIM/VDC Management Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: From MCADCafe newsletter 31 October 2005

    Some great points!

    Just a few comments:
    Quote Originally Posted by johnbogie
    We interest and graduate only a fraction of the engineers that countries like china and India do, and the disparity grows every year.
    I admit to being uneducated on these numbers except for hearing the disparity numbers between our countries. My question (Yes a question.. not an educated comment) is what type of disparity is this in terms of existing manpower and economic growth? These countries mentioned have approx. 3 times the population of the US and the job market is exploding with new positions to meet their new found economic growth. I'm curious how these numbers relate to actual need and what the market in these individual countries require? Will the number of Engineers in their countries meet the expected demand? I'm not saying the US isn't falling (fallen) behind, I'm simply curious how we relate to each other on the same scale?


    Quote Originally Posted by johnbogie
    Algebra is now the highest level of math taught now. Chemistry and physics are combined in a watered-down class, largely because of the lack of math exposure to understand anything beyond the most basic of principles. I'm told this trend is occurring all across the country.
    This is an economic issue. I believe here in Missouri and in Illinois (where I grew up) you can't legally graduate students with just one upper level math class anymore. So this is a problem with the economics of running an educational institution and the education requirements mandated by your state.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbogie
    I was approached by a local community college to teach Mechanical CAD and Fundamentals Of Mechanical Design, but both were cancelled, again due to lack of interest.
    &
    Eventually, and in the not too distant future, we're going to see not just "Made In China," labels on products, but "Designed and Engineered In China." Are we relegating ourselves to just logistics, distribution, and consumption of products - the Walmart model on a national scale? It sure appears that way because we continue to consume more but actually produce less in this country.
    The US has a problem. We pay our people top dollar and expect them to not spend money on products that cost less. China, India, and other countries pay their employees low wages and export their product to the US at substantial profits. But this raises two questions:

    1.) Will the US be able to compete on a global market with nations currently holding populations 2-3 x larger than the US over the long term?

    2.) What will happen to China and India once they gain a more massive stake in a global economy and their people GET USED TO IT. In other words... eventually they will have to pay their employees more to retain them... spend more money for diminishing resources, etc. In other words, in time the economics of success will bite them just like it currently bites us.

    I believe the answer is that while some of the US production force will stay strong, we will continue to take hard hits from these developing countries and frankly... there isn't much we can do about it. Now there are things we can do to make life "harder" on these other countries related to trade, but there is little we can do to keep them from developing into economic "super powers" like the US. Ultimately we will be fine...our country has large quantities of usable land and enough food to feed our people which will provide us with gradual, long term growth.

    In short: Each country has their own "advantages" based on their economy, military, environmental, social needs, resources, and the number of people living within it. The US is a good blend of these factors and ultimately as long as we have these advantages we will remain a "superpower".... but we will no longer be "the" superpower... just one among many. We will need to emphasis our need for education and production to keep on pace with these other developing countries so that we will stay as top performing members of the new "World" economy.
    Last edited by Brian Myers; 2005-10-31 at 09:10 PM.
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    Certified AUGI Addict jaberwok's Avatar
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    Default Re: From MCADCafe newsletter 31 October 2005

    A further comment on the original article here. - {scroll down}

    Please note that these concerns do not apply only to North America. They certainly apply in Britain and, I imagine, in the rest of the "old" industrialised nations.
    John B

    "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe." - Carl Sagan

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