A blogger on Wired.com recently posted the “Top 5 Reasons it Sucks to be an Engineering Student,” which cited awful textbooks, professors who are rarely encouraging, poor academic counseling, assignments that all feel the same, and perhaps worst of all, that other disciplines routinely offer inflated grades. According to the blog, “brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other [academic] departments score straight A’s for writing book reports…about their favorite zombie films.”
Do you agree with this blogger? Do you have your own reasons to add to the list?
Responses to February’s Question
Dreaming of the Perfect Gadget
The annual International Consumer Electronics Show last month in Las Vegas showcased some of the latest and greatest devices, including handheld imaging, audio, and game systems. There were laptops smaller and lighter than ever before, a digital photo frame combining an LCD screen with an MP3 player, and cars outfitted with smart new video and computer technology.
What would your ideal gadget be, or does it already exist?
I have a PDA, a GPS, a digital camera, a cellphone, and a few other portable digital devices, but I don't carry them all around separately. I’d love to have an all-in-one device, like an iPhone. I also would like to be able to transfer information such as my media and trip files from the device to a server in my car.
I would be happy if it could find a great restaurant, call ahead for reservations, make sure that I had enough gas to get there and, if not, find the cheapest gas station along the route. It also could let me know when my car is due for an oil change and recommend a few nearby servicing locations.
It would be great if the device could cook, clean, and do laundry, too, but I think that may be asking too much.
A Cup of Coffee
I’ve spent hours on the Web researching coffeemakers to replace my broken one, and it seems that the perfect machine does not yet exist. It would be great to find one for less than US $100 with a 12-cup thermal carafe, a no-drip automatic shut-off when the carafe is removed, a reliable indicator that tells me when the coffee is finished brewing, and a pouring lip on the carafe designed so that water does not spill over the edge.
My wife says I am over-researching and should just go ahead and buy a cheap pot.
Steven M. Baer
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Manual Annoyance Override
The two gadgets of my dreams are small universal remotes that could temporarily override the control systems of obnoxious devices in public.
The first would override the temperature of air conditioners that make buildings too cold. With one click, it would reset the temperatures in airports, stores, and waiting rooms for 15 minutes. Why should anyone in an office in Texas crave a coat in the middle of the summer?
The second dream gadget would be the “universal volume controller.” Is that television in the gym locker room (mounted 9 feet above the floor) so loud that you can’t hear anyone speak? Point the clicker and turn down the volume or mute it. Does your neighbor’s teenage son or daughter have 5000-watt speakers blasting unbearable music? You want the universal volume controller. Ideally, it would work on jackhammers and motorcycles, too.
My ideal gadget is a device that would be placed on every vehicle on the planet. It would take in air and exhaust and extract its carbon dioxide. Then it would separate the carbon from the oxygen, so it would help clean the atmosphere. Another idea is to use a catalytic reaction to combine the carbon dioxide with another compound to form a third, harmless substance.