I definitely agree with Reuss' sentiments, but did he give any suggestions or make any commitments for GM to help foster next-generation EV engineers? It's one thing to admonish an industry or a country for slack education practices, but GM is certainly poised to give back by funding or helping architect curriculum and training that can seed its engineering ranks with the skill sets it requires. Of course, not just GM, but all of the auto makers. Partnership between business and educational institutions is critical for advancing this cause.
Beth, I agree with you. I am tired of people, be they executives or politicians, throwing out statistics they read in a newspaper. I would put our top students up against those in other countries any day. We are also able to attract top students from elsewhere. That is not really the issue.
What the auto industry ought to be doing is to attract experienced engineers from other fields so that they can bring new ideas, and experience, to the business. GM, especially, does not have time to wait for the new engineers to get up to speed.
The issues with electric vehicles are strictly in the storage area. The electric motors are very powerful and weigh very little (the one in the Tesla Roadster puts out about 300 Hp and weighs only 70 lbs. Added to that advantage, it does not require a transmission. Innovations in the chasis are really the same as for a car with an ICE. What GM, and the others, need to do is to invest their own money into critical technologies, like battery technology.
These businesses (the auto industry) started out making everything themselves. They took in raw material (iron ore, coke, rubber) and made the vehicles. I am not advocating that they go back to that, but they certianly are not doing really well with the approach they have now. Perhaps they should rethink the situation.
I agree in general about partnerships between industry and engineering education. This tighter integration between the two is one goal of the larger effort--National Network of Manufacturing Innovation--that includes the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute we wrote about here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=251513
@naperlou: It's true that the best U.S. students can compete with students anywhere -- but then again, you'd expect the top students in a country of 300 million to be pretty good. It's also true that many people come to the U.S. for post-secondary education. However, few (if any) people come to the U.S. because of the quality of our K-12 education. There are some great schools and some great teachers, but many students are underserved. My daughters went to high school first in El Salvador, and then in the U.S.; when they came to the U.S., they were shocked by how little was demanded of them. Of course, we live in a predominately working class suburb; schools in some of the more affluent nearby suburbs are among the best in the country. But inadequate resources are not the only, or even the main, problem. We have noticed that students who recently immigrated to the U.S. from Latin America tend to have more respect for teachers, a stronger work ethic, and a stronger belief that education is the road to success than their more "Americanized" peers. There are many negative influences in U.S. culture that detract from academic success. Parental involvement is also extremely important. All of these issues need to be addressed if we are going to do a better job promoting a high level of scientific and mathematical literacy across all levels of society.
He did not give details as to how we could improve the educational system in this country, Beth. Reuss seemed more concerned with the big picture, and how lack of education will affect their ability to make electric cars that can compete with gasoline.
@Dave, we experience some of the same things here. When my children started school we were in England. We lived in Winchester, an affluent part of England. I was actually on the Board of Governors of the comprehensive school where they were enrolled. Many people would move to the Winchester area who had jobs in England so that their children could go to school there. With the public transport available, it was not a problem.
I live in the Chicago area. I am in the suburbs and we have wonderful schools. The city of Chicago, on the other hand, has some of the worst. In Chicago, they spend about 50% more than we do in the suburbs.
I was talking to my son this morning about this article. I think that when you compare the US to countries that are much smaller and less diverse, you are making an invalid comparison. To compare us to other countries you have to look at the EU as a whole. We have had European students staying with us. The ones who would undertake the effort are, of course, going to top level academic schools. I would put ours up against any of those. And our schools are not selective. In continental Europe, they generally are. By the way, he entered college with 18 credits of AP classes under his belt.
I really do agree with you, Dave. I have said many of the same things in debates about education. It is not really money, but culture and parental involvement. My father went to high school in Massachusetts in the 1930s. His parents came from a poor farming community in Greece. He took Calculus in 11th grade. I had to take an extra summer course to take it in 12th grade in the 1970s in Maryland. And I was in the accelerated class.
I am concerned that we do something about the inner city schools. I think it would need to be radical. On the other hand, management of our human capital throughout our careers is just as important. Waiting for us to fix the education system for our kids is not going to get us where we need to be. There are many of us who are concerned, but things seem to change very slowly.
Good points, Dave. When I was in college, most of my fellow students came from outside the U.S. Virtually all took calculus in high school and were amazed to hear that most U.S. students didn't. For many U.S. high school students, the idea of taking calculus or differential equations in high school is almost unthinkable, and that's largely due to weaknesses at the K-12 levels.
Math and science grades do not indicate the ability or the creativeness to properly design products. A creative mind cannot be taught in school. Most companies hire based on grades because they are not capable of properly measuring creativeness. Most creative engineers I know own the companies because their grades were not high enough to be hired by the big companies. I would bet the next major development in electric vehicles will be created by a small startup and not by one of the big companies.
For too long, industry has sat idly while watching teachers that have little scientific background and no private-sector experience educate our children. How can we expect to produce quality engineers when classroom discussions are heavily biased toward "fun" things like bashing industry for pollution instead of teaching students the basic engineering principles needed to create a cleaner world?
It is obvious that schools are not going to change quickly enough to prevent a serious decline in the knowledge base (and probably the living standard as well) of the U.S. The only solution is for industry to offer some of their best minds to spend some time in classrooms along side the teacher. If every company with over 100 employees sent one qualified person to a local school for a half-day once a month maybe we could reduce the anti-industry (and physical science) bias, and get some more children interested in the skills that will help us get out of this mess.
I agree with your comment that the best of our best is as good as in the rest of the world. However, in many/most schools I also notice that we are presently pandering to the bottom tier students. In much of the world, China, Europe, etc, Secondary Schooling is more rigorous and there are many students who don't even attend at this level. They go directly into a trade school. The US seems to think that every student can be a top level engineer, businessperson, or whatever, and because the schools are measured by the students grades, the school administration pushes down on the rigor to allow the bottom tier student to "pass" (grade inflation). Many high performing students are not challenged, and they don't perform to their best potential. I am proposing more STEM magnet schools, especially ones that aren't afraid to return low performers back to their home districts. This will generate the class of Scientists and Engineers necessary to move technology forward. Thank you (Long time reader, first time poster - very important topic).
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