Down to Earth
Your article “Fuel Cells for the Masses” in the January Power Engineering connected to my own experience. My introduction to fuel cells came as part of the Biosatellite project with GE. There they were used not only for the generation of electrical power but also for provisioning of drinking water for the monkeys onboard. This was in the early sixties. At that time, high costs and premature membrane degradation were major problems.
In the late sixties, I worked for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. in the Advanced Systems Development department. One particular project dealt with developing an integrated energy management and life support system. Besides the space station, the new technologywas to be applied to the home ofthe future.
Our concept was to optimize the fuel cell on a total systems basis. This meant to make full use of the by-products of fuel cell operations, i.gif. the use of the heat directly for space conditioning and the water for food preparation, drinking purposes and personal hygiene.
As some of us left the aerospace industry, we took this dream with us that some day fuel cells would become economically viable right down to the homeowner level. Your article suggests that this may happen in the not so distant future.
Klaus S. Feindler
It`s No Joke
I enjoyed “A Little Science is a Dangerous Thing” in the January issue. I used the example of cold food weight loss in my Basic Thermodynamics class at the University of Northern Iowa. The information would really get the students excited (especially the cold beer calculations) until I would call their attention to the topic we were covering: the appropriate use of units of measurement and conversions.
When the student would determine the caloric values for their beer, they would be upset to learn that the caloric unit they worked with was not the same unit in dietary science. The “large calorie” and the calorie used to measure heat had a 1,000-fold difference. Some of the students actually bought into the cold food weight loss method until this point.
All in all, it was good fun and made a “real world” connection.
I am a young engineer (25 yrs. old and female) with only two years` experience, and I empathize with Mr. Dams on the subject of older engineers being wasted. However, from my perspective, more times than not the older engineers tend to be `stuck` in their ways. They are not as flexible as today`s industry requires.
I admit that Corporate America does not respect experience, but from a business perspective is that experience something that a younger person cannot obtain in a short amount of time if given the tools-and for that matter worth the difference in salary? We work for less money; all of our schooling is computer based; change is a way of life, and we are more flexible with the markets.
I know that I will be in this `older generation` some day-but I have already started planning and educating myself for a growing market and, if necessary, a career change. For as fast as the world is changing, one has to keep a watchful eye for new opportunities. Otherwise you may find yourself with no opportunity.
Short Term Focus
I recently read the February issue of Power Engineering. While it is true that the usage of the terms major and minor are dependent upon whose ox is being gored, the examples offered in the piece as reasons for the recent surge in job losses are not applicable. To illustrate: the loss of jobs for typesetters, keypunch operators, buggy whip manufacturers etc., were indeed due to technological advances that made these jobs redundant. However, it is my position that the current rage of downsizing, re-engineering or whatever euphemism is applied, has nothing to do with technological advancement. Rather, this is a mad dash for the bottom line, where short term profit is the goal.
Dennis J. Csatari