CFLs make cents

In regards to all the letters bashing CFL’s in the March 20 issue: I have been using CFLs for the last 7 years or so. And as I have gradually increased the number I use, I have seen at least a $10/month savings in electricity use. Although I admit that some of the earlier ones I bought seemed to have a short life span, others are still in use after 7 years, which includes moving from one house to another.

While I don’t see CFLs being able to fill in for all incandescent applications, I look forward to the next great savings from LED lights. So while I understand some frustration with CFLs and I’m all for saving the environment, most of my affection for this technology is a pure pocketbook issue; they save me money.

Vince Hausfeld

Everybody knows engineering

In your editorial, “The Wrong Message for Engineering Week” (March 17), you said, “The fact that pay cuts at GM and IBM don’t directly affect engineers is of little consolation when it comes to convincing young people that technical careers are worthwhile. To youngsters, the distinction between an engineer, an IT specialist, and a factory worker is fuzzy at best.” While Engineering Week might not have been a huge hit with students, I don’t think it is because of the reasons you give. I would bet that if you asked any number of students, most would be able to make a distinction between an engineer and a factory worker. And those that can’t, probably shouldn’t be engineers.

Todd Huizingh

I can only relate the story of my own visit to a factory as a junior high schooler, thanks to a program put on by the Society of Automotive engineers with aims similar to those of Engineering Week. My classmates and I had no clue what engineers did nor what the difference was between an engineer, draftsman, and someone who worked on a factory assembly line. And the trip to the plant didn’t help matters much. — Leland Teschler

I need a useful vehicle

We here all remember plenty of cars that got around 20 mpg in the 50s and 60s. I personally owned a ’68 Mercury Monterrey with a 390-in.3 engine with a two-barrel carburetor and a three-speed automatic transmission that got about 20 mpg. It even had air conditioning. It was a real boat. I also had a ’66 Pontiac Grand Prix with a 389-in.3 and a four-barrel carburetor that got 16 to 18 mpg. And my ’84 Nissan 1984 with a four banger got over 40 mpg.

Even full-size GM cars in the 80s to 90s with the 3800 V6 would get 30 mpg consistently. How many cars today are equal to that?

I own a half-ton truck and a SUV. I also commute 35 miles each way to work. I am looking into getting a fuel-efficient car, but I need to haul, tow, and commute, and I am not well-heeled enough to buy another vehicle just for mileage.

Us rural folks use our vehicles for many purposes and can’t always afford multiple vehicles.

Bryan Daniel

I grew up on a farm and my family had a pickup truck for the same reasons you own yours. I believe one of the reasons it is hard for automakers to field high-mpg vehicles is the need to include mandated features such as electric-door locks, window defrosters, and other items that consumers have shown they prefer. Those additional features carry a weight penalty and consume power. — Leland Teschler

Kudos to Mr. Teschler

First of all, I must say I do not envy you, stepping into the shoes of a legend. For years, the main reason for us to get Machine Design was to see what Ron Khol had to say. To me, anyone with a keyboard can write a technical article. The genius is the guy that can provoke thought and stimulate discussion in an entertaining fashion. It still amazes me the number of responders who want just the facts. To them I say, go get a textbook.

To the main reason I am writing. Your letters section in the Feb. 21 issue magazine was a hoot. I laughed so hard it hurt reading about Jim Miller’s plastic engine getting ready to throw a rod or spin a main. Can’t you just picture two grade-school kids turbocharging a plastic engine with a high-speed drill? Jim is the kind of engineer I want working for me.

Mike Yankaitis

Small firms need help

Your recent editorial (“A view of the future from a housetop,” March 6) was interesting, but I think you might find that most innovation is taking place in small businesses. Unfortunately, many good ideas also die there. As a small manufacturer, we have little money or time to develop our new product. Another burden for small firms is the lack of exposure. If you don’t get the word out, your good idea or product is often stillborn. Rising taxes, energy prices, and foreign competition also put pressure on domestic business’ incomes in this “world economy” that the Fortune 500 and our all-wise politicians are so enamored with.

Another hurdle, one of the biggest, is that the U.S. does not protect inventors and their inventions long enough for self-funded folks to profit because of the costs and time it takes to get to market. Lack of privacy and security in the patent process add to the risks. And forget about foreign markets. The incredible restrictions set up by the European Union and its patent process is stacked against you. Sadly, because of the lack of protection, overseas firms can infringe on U.S. patents and the American that came up with the original ideas have no recourse or protection.

In essence, the U.S. is stifling its own creativity pool by not letting small companies and individuals keep money for development of new products. It seems it always ends up being about time and money, and not “brain drain” or lack of people with the ability to invent.

Derek Flor

Does engineering need a face-lift

As I see more stuff being sent to contract manufacturers, both in the U.S. and “offshore,” I wonder what will be left when my teenage son starts thinking about college.

In a recent issue of Machine Design, an editorial mentioned that engineering is not seen as glamorous. Somehow we need to combine Bill Nye the Science Guy with Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters, the concepts of Junkyard Wars, and the hot guys and gals from TV shows like CSI and Law & Order to come up with an engineering show that captivates young people.

We need a “wow” factor to catch young people’s attention and overshadow the notion that engineering is done in a dark, grimy, noisy factories, and most of these factories are in foreign countries.

Phil Nutting

Let me play a bit of a devil’s advocate here. I don’t know about you, but the people I worked with when I was a “real” engineer were not nearly as glamorous as the people you see on CSI, and the projects we worked on were much less interesting than what you see on Mythbusters or Junkyard Wars. I believe the same can be said for the vast majority of engineering jobs. I am afraid that portraying the profession too glamorously will disillusion a lot of kids as they find out what real engineering work is.

I would also submit that attracting kids to the profession is only part of the problem. There was greater than a 50% drop-out rate between freshman and senior years in my engineering class, and the statistics I’ve seen indicate that this situation is still typical at many engineering schools. It does no good to attract young people to engineering if most of them fall by the wayside once they see what it is really about. — Lee Teschler