Recently in Engineering Category

The NSPE Board of Directors approved several new policies this morning in their metting which were presented to them by the eislatve and Governmental Affairs Committee (on which I serve). We had aproved the policies in previous meetings. Approved policies are on Engrgy Security, Nuclear Power, Geothermal Energy, and Natural Gas. In our meeting on Friday we, the committee, approved a position statement on Hydroelectric Power but it still nees review and approval by the Board. There are sever other polices currently in the committee which are being tweaked.

A Race Well-Run

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Dateline: NSPE Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL.

Today was election for NSPE and I was a candidate for Vice President. I did not win. I would love to have won the election, if I didn't want to win then why run, but I am not hurt, upset, angry, or irritated in the result and here is why.

First, Dan Wittliff, the other candidate for the position, is a great person and will be a great leader for NSPE. We may differ on a few issues but they are not major and he will serve NSPE well. Dan was not an opponent in the traditional sense, we were both merely running for the same office, so in no way do I feel beaten. In reality, we both were running for the position and did not know of each other until well into the process. This is a result of the way NSPE handles this contest.

Second, I was asked to run by others, specifically the Mississippi Engineering Society and I consider that to be a great honor. Because I did not wake up one morning and decide my life would be incomplete without this position I think it is a little easier to not win.

Third, I did not lose. I still get to be involved in NSPE and I get a life for at least another year.

Fourth, the encouragement I have received from the officers and delegates of NSPE to run next year has been amazing. I also had several people whom I respect greatly share how they voted with me and I appreciate their support.

Fifth, everyone, and I mean everyone, I spoke with mentioned how tough the choice was. I'd much rather lose a close contest than win one by a landslide. I did not get the final vote count but I believe it was close (at least that's the story I'm sticking with!)

Sixth, we seldom get what we want all the time. If you cannot handle the occasional loss, then you do not have the skills, backbone, and thick skin to be a leader.

Seventh, there is still work to do and there is always next year.

Eight, I received a lot of input, advice, and help from many friends as I prepared for this. I appreciate that help and support and it says much about the quality people I work with and call friends.

I wish Dan the best and have already told him I'm here to help.


After winning the ChallengeX completion a couple of years ago, the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University entered the EcoCAR challenge last year. The second year of the competition has just completed and Mississippi State won. But rather than saying MSU won, you really need to look at the numbers to see by how much they won. The point spread between first and second places is 153 point; the spread between second and third is 71; and between third and fourth is 59.

Listed below, in ascending order, are the universities and their total point scores. The maximum possible total points were 1000.

Michigan Technological University 97.58
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 161.31
Missouri Science & Technology 175.74
Texas Tech 198.59
Georgia Tech 212.69
West Virginia University 230.85
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 251.65
University of Wisconsin-Madison 253.79
University of Waterloo 291.42
North Carolina State University 448.75
University of Ontario Institute of Technology 471.48
The Ohio State University 527.41
University of Victoria 564.8
Pennsylvania State University 620.22
Virginia Tech 691.35
Mississippi State University 844.04

Some of the other awards won by MSU were:

* Best acceleration
* Best autocross
* Best fuel consumption
* Best tailpipe emissions
* Best well-to-wheels greenhouse gas
* Best well-to-wheels petroleum energy use
* Best Mechanical Systems Presentation
* Best Controls Presentation
* Best Vehicle Design Review Presentation
* Best outreach
> Best media relations program
> Best education program
> Best creative promotion of EcoCAR
> Best website

Congratulations EcoCAR Team!

Politics of Disaster

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ARTICLE: "The Politics of Disaster". By Lexington. The Economist, 08 May 2010, p. 36

Lexington points out that, at the time of this article, the President had done little for which he could be faulted. Some have referred to the Gulf of Mexico spill, if spill is the right word, as "Obama's Katrina" but it has not yet stuck. Now, several weeks later, the name may be sticking a little more.

The President continues to say that he is in charge and that BP is doing nothing without approval. I fail to see the advantage of this. No one has more reason and incentive to stop the oil from leaking into the Gulf than does BP and the President lacks any special expertise in petroleum engineering to make his oversight of any significant value. He seems to be setting himself up for blame for any failure yet will never get any credit for a solution.

The President continues to say that BP will pay to clean up the spill but is that true? What if BP refuses (unlikely), or goes out of business (perhaps also unlikely)? Why is BP being held to a higher standard than the financial institutions were held when the financial crisis was caused by greed but the oil in the Gulf was apparently an industrial accident? What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico is indeed a tragedy but it was an accident. Everything we do in life carries some risk and we, as individuals, companies, and even governments, tend to engage only in those activities in which the benefits will outweigh the risks. Such was the case here. There were risks involved in drilling for oil off the coast but the benefits of a domestic supply of oil outweigh those risks.

The flow of oil will eventually be stopped and the cleanup will be accomplished. The greater question is what will this do to domestic oil exploration? Will we continue to drill off shore or will we now consider more drilling on land and perhaps in areas such as ANWR? And who will make these decisions? I fear the decisions will be made by the politicians based on politics and not by the engineers based on reason. Decisions may well be made based on emotion or re-election concerns rather than sound engineering reasoning. This is an area in which engineers must play a greater role. They need to explain the risks and benefits of oil exploration as well as the risks and benefits of other energy alternatives. Then, and only then, will we be able to make sound decisions which minimize risks.

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