Electronic Design


A Contrasting View On Universities
I ran into Lawrence J. Kamm's article "How To Improve Our Universities: Or, The Tale Of Two Frauds" \[May 1, p. 154\]. I was wondering how you could state that American universities are the best in the world? Have you studied in several different foreign universities? Have you worked with engineers from all over the world? Have you had a chance to interview domestic and foreign EEs for an engineering position? I did all of this.

Although some U.S. EEs have a really good education—close to the best Russian, Chinese, and European—the average quality of U.S. Engineers is well below the average level of EEs from some other countries. Basically it's due to the poor quality of American university courses, except for a few schools, like Stanford, MIT, and Berkeley. In those cases, I believe that for $30,000 each year it's a must to receive a good education. What's the reason for the success of American high tech? Money and lots of foreign EEs! Did you know that 50% of PhD degrees are assigned to non-U.S. students? And, those students get them relatively easily while U.S. graduates struggle to make it because they lack solid backgrounds?
Fabio Galli

Kamm replies: My own experience with foreign educated engineers is quite limited, so I cannot compare based on personal situations. I do know that there's a steady stream of foreign graduate students in American universities. It cannot be because our tuition and living costs are cheaper. For another opinion, I have forwarded your message on to a good friend who received a PhD from Moscow University and has a broad experience with engineers from countries other than the U.S. His response:

My personal observations are in total agreement with Mr. Galli's. I have interacted numerous times with engineers working for the advanced technologies companies. An overwhelming number of these engineers have received their basic education abroad. Almost invariably, when foreign educated and American-educated professionals participate in a discussion on the same subject, the Americans look very weak.

I have lived in the U.S. for the last 25 years, have worked here very successfully, and continue to do so. I'm not an "America-basher." On the contrary, I'm very concerned with maintaining the status of the U.S. as the world leader. Unfortunately, and this is very painful for me to observe, the fundamental decline in American education at all levels is an undeniable fact. In my opinion, some reasons for this decline are:

  1. The total lack of training in basic, disciplined analytical thinking. This has become so poor that the majority of today's students, as well as professors may not understand the depth of the previous sentence.
  2. The curriculum of technical and scientific education isn't thought through. Basic knowledge courses are not taught at all or just scanned without any depth (this is even worse!). The question "why?" is never asked.

I could go on, but I'm sure that the picture is clear.
Vladimir Rodov
Independent Consultant
Redondo Beach, California

Inspiring Words On Speaking
I just received my copy of the March 20 issue by sea mail, so my anecdote is old news. It concerns the careers column "Don't Doubt Your Speaking Potential" \[p. 165\].

A number of years ago I was president of a productivity group. These were people from various businesses within an area who gathered together to discuss and solve each other's problems. There was a broad range of industry covered, as well as a large and varied skills pool amongst the delegates.

We often had a guest speaker, but sometimes the speaker wasn't able to attend for various reasons. I found I could call on a senior human-resources manager from one of the members to fill in during such emergencies.

He would just ask "What do you want me to talk about?" With less than a half an hour's notice, he could give an inspiring and captivating speech. I swear that if I had said "Today's topic is the sex life of the blue turtles on the Gallapogus Islands" he could have had the audience clapping and stamping their feet.

Now, I'm not a great public speaker myself and I wondered how he did it. I asked, "Don't you ever get nervous?" He said, "Of course, every time." But, he had learned to focus on the topic and the audience, keep his speech to the point and succinct, and to address that speech to each member personally.

Reading your comments on Kenny Troutt and his ability to overcome nerves triggered comparisons with my friend and his ability to sell his message. I was inspired—but no better as a speaker!
Colin MacKinnon
Managing Director
Future Plastics Pty. Ltd.
Maraylya, Australia

Help A Reader Out
I read with much interest the design idea "A Simple-To-Build Superhet Receiver" \[May 29, p. 108\]. I have been working on a similar project for some time now and have considered using the ZN416 chip in my design. I note that the author states the IC is available in Australia. However, my search for a source of these chips in the U.S. has been futile. Can any of your readers, or the author, steer me to a domestic distributor of the ZN416? I can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
Anthony J. Caristi
Senior Electronics Engineer
Amperite Co. Inc.

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