August 17, 2011


Each year the Princeton Review publishes a document that “rates” colleges and universities relative to the following criteria:

  • Academics/Administration
  1. Best classroom experience
  2. Students Study the Most
  3. Students Study the Least
  4. Best Professors
  5. Worst Professors
  6. Class Discussions Encouraged
  7. Best Career Services
  8. Best College Library
  9. Best Health Services
  10. Great Financial Aid
  11. Long Lines/Red Tape
  • Quality of Life
  1. 1.       Happiest Students/Least Happy Students
  2. Most Beautiful Campus
  3. Least Beautiful Campus
  4. Best Campus Food
  5. Dorms Like Palaces
  6. Best Quality of Life
  • Politics
  • Demographics
  • Social Life
  • Extracurriculars
  • Parties
  • Schools by Type; i.e. party schools, jock schools, future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution, tree huggers, etc etc ( you get the picture )

I have not broken out specifics after Quality of Life but each category can be “unpacked” to reveal how 122,000 students felt about their school relative to the classifications given above.  The Best 376 Colleges was published in August of 2011.  On the 80-question survey, students were asked to rate their own schools.  Each of the sixty-two (62) lists reports the top twenty (20) schools in a specific category.  It appears (again) that engineering students are NOT very happy.  As a matter of fact, engineering schools seem to dominate the unhappiness list and have done so since 2008.  At least five of the ten unhappiness schools were considered “schools of engineering”.  Let’s take a look at the survey:


  • Unites States Merchant Marine Academy
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • United States Coast Guard Academy
  • Stony Brook University
  • Clarkson University
  • University of Hawaii-Manoa
  • St. John’s University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Fisk University
  • Hofstra University
  • Drexel University
  • University of California-Riverside
  • SUNY at Albany
  • George Mason University
  • SUNY College at Purchase
  • Hampton University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Rutgers
  • United States Air Force Academy




  • Brown University
  • Princeton University
  • Whitman College
  • Clemson University
  • Stanford University
  • The College of New Jersey
  • Tufts University
  • The University of Tulsa
  • Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Yale University
  • St. Mary’s College of Maryland
  • University of N.C.—Chapel Hill
  • Amherst College
  • California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo
  • Haverford College
  • Brigham Young University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • William Jewell College
  • Southern Methodist University


I know that when I attended The University of Tennessee School of Engineering, we did not automatically feel we were there to “get happy”.   In my case, it was a tough slog to the end and I never felt I had time to adequately complete those assignments that just might land me that great job “on the outside” and propel me to the notoriety I just knew I deserved.  “Back in the day”, we all had classes MWF AND TThSat.  Can you believe Saturday classes?  You bet!  The College of Engineering at UT had classes beginning at 0800 hrs and running till noon—ON SATURDAY.   After the last class, we would leave our books and head to the stadium for the football game at 1400 hrs.  Please note: this was the most enjoyable part of our week because after the game, a quick meal, pick up the books and then hit the books.  Yes we studied on Saturday evening and Sunday.  Invariably, there was a lab due first thing Monday morning and, as we all know, that’s what the weekend was for.  We never really felt the “happiness quotient” factored into our overall purpose for being at the university.   We all have endured the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” i.e. running out of gas 10 minutes before the final in fluid mechanics, trying to “nail” a lab while working through a temperature of 102, knowing we had a pile of dirty clothes to be washed and dried (after studying till midnight) and the all-night laundromat was always “take-a-number”, etc.  I had a roommate who snored so loudly that four hours of sleep was a god-send. ( He failed out after the first year so there is answer to prayer!)  Added to the list; we all have  had teachers who worked diligently to see how many students could be convinced engineering was not for them; i.e. Dr. W.K. Stare, Dr. C.R. ( cold-rolled) Brooks, etc.  I had one professor ( Infinite Series Mathematics) who actually could not speak English—could not speak English.  One of my classmates spoke Cantonese and tried to get clarification on subject matter for future lessons.     The professor went ballistic.  Was insulted.  Walked out of class.  I really don’t know if he came back because I dropped the class, that day, and took the course in summer school.  Better odds of completion and a (somewhat ) better chance of getting a decent grade. 


 I will tell you what I did get from my university experience, OPPORTUNITY !  An opportunity to:


  • work within the best profession on the planet—-engineering
  •  support my lovely wife (46 years this July)
  •  provide for our three sons ( private schools all the way because public schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee SUCK!—Another story for another day.)
  •  work in the Aerospace Industry. ( Met all of the original 7—except Scott Carpenter, and  I’ve really never forgiven him for that! )
  • be a small part of a dynamic, fascinating, forward-thinking industry fostering innovation and improving the lives of people and lessening their “domestic” work-load


I am really HAPPY about all of these things and more.


NOTE:  The sources for this blog came from the following publications:

1.)       The Princeton Review, August 12, 2011

2.)      Design News—Engineering Schools Dominate Unhappiness List by  Mr. Charles Murry


August 10, 2011



Tribology is defined as the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion and of related subjects and practices; it deals with every aspect of 1.) Friction, 2.) Wear, 3.) Lubrication and 4.) Adhesion.  This term is derived from the Greek word ‘tribos’ (τρίβοσ) meaning ‘rubbing’ or to rub.     Sliding and rolling components are commonplace with many mechanical and electromechanical devices.   These sliding and rolling surfaces represent the key to much of our technological society and understanding the tribological principals is essential for the successful design of machine elements. 

When two nominally flat surfaces are placed in contact with each other, surface roughness causes contact to occur at discrete contact spots; thus, interfacial adhesion occurs.   This occurance is commonplace for sliding and rolling contact–both experience the very same phenomen.

 Friction is defined as the resistance to motion, experienced whenever one sold body moves over another.  Wear is defined as surface damage or removal of material from one or both solid surfaces during moving contact.  Materials, coatings and surface treatments are used to control friction and wear with one of the most effective means resulting from proper lubrication, which provides smooth running and satisfactory life for machine elements.  Lubricants can be solid or gaseous depending upon the components in contact with each other.

  The goal of every designer is always to bring about the transmission of mechanical power with the lowest possible friction losses and with minimal wear of mating surfaces.   Even with this being the case we know that, on average, only one hour of instruction, over a four year curriculum, is taught to mechanical engineering students, relative to the subject.   


There is definitely an industrial significance for the understanding of tribology.  According to some estimates, losses resulting from friction and wear amount to approximately six percent (6%) of the GNP (Gross National Product) in the United States alone.  This amounts to $200 million per year.  It also has been estimated that approximately one-third of the world’s energy resources appear as friction in one form or another.  According to Dr. Peter Jost, the United Kingdom could save approximately £ 500 million pounds per year by employing better tribological practices.  A very similar classification of savings will exist for the United States.     There also is a definite cost benefit due to increased reliability; an improvement in meantime to failure (MTTF) and meantime between failure (MTBF) of moving parts.  It has been stated, again by Jost, that savings from properly lubricating the interface between moving members could possibly save billions of dollars over the lifetime of the moving mechanism. 

As you can see, the study of Tribology, for “enineering types” is critical to proper design and much much more emphesis should be placed on the technology during the educational process.

I look forward to any comments you have.



I, like some people, have been very attentive to the debt ceiling histrionics occurring in Washington D.C.  during the month of July.   I’m a bit of a news “junkie” and every time there was an “ALERT” or a breaking story, I would pay very very close attention, making sure I gobbled up every news crumb dropped from the mouth of the commentator.   I don’t know how much was show and how much was “show-nuf” but I will tell you this—I’m not impressed with the outcome of the negotiations.  For all of the madness, it does seem that there would be much more bang for the buck.  Our National debt is axle deep to a Ferris wheel and we are telling ourselves it will go away without any real effort.  Of course, there will be another commission formed to ( again ) study the problem.    Always sounds like a good idea—right?   This time though, it will be a “super commission”.   My source inside the West Wing tells me President Obama is going to require the panel members to wear blue tights and a red cape.  After all, it is a “super” commission. 

Are you aware of the fact that there have been 17 commissions over the years dealing with (take a guess) the National debt?  Here are just a few of the 17:

  • The Grace Commission
  • The National Commission on Social Security Reform or the Greenspan Commission
  • The National Partnership for Reinventing Government or the Gore Commission
  • The National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare
  • The President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security
  • The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
  • The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility
  • The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
  • Simpson/ Bowles Commission

Three of the 17 panels were convened under President Reagan, one under President George H.W. Bush; three were formed under President Bill Clinton, five under President George W. Bush and five ( so far ) under President Barak Obama.  Instead of forming another useless commission, why doesn’t someone in Washington read the conclusion and recommendations put forth by the previous commissions?  Does anyone think our problems are any different now as opposed to “back when”?  Has anything really changed?   WE SPEND TOO MUCH and we have rampant fraud, seemingly overlooked by our Federal Government.      Washington is trying to delay making the tough decisions.  Congress and the Executive Branch really think this desperate situation will go away and / or the American people will, again, forget.  Another commission will not bring forth any better solutions than those held in the past.  It will only provide cover for politicians up for reelection.


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