CONSIDER THE COSTS

July 7, 2017


I’m pretty sure most people, like me, ALWAYS consider the costs of purchased items.  I do NOT buy a pack of bubble gum without asking “how much” nor do I envy those who have enough money to purchase without consideration of “how much”.   The list below is totally random but does represent the fact year after year things we need and want increase at an alarming rate. (At least in my opinion.)

  • One dozen organic eggs- $3.50.
  • Hatsan Nova 0.22 Air Rifle–$749.00
  • IRS estimated value of Michael Jackson’s estate– $434.00 million
  • Average cost of one American wedding–$26,700.00. (I’m blown away by this one. Happy I have all boys.)
  • Wedding statistics released in 2017 by The Knot show the price brides are willing to pay for their gowns has gone up. The 2016 national average spent was $1,564, and the year before it was $1,469. Apart from venue, photographer, and planner, the wedding dress was one of the costliest items of the whole event.
  • According to Cost Helper, traditional metal dental braces cost between $3,000and $7,500. The duration of treatment ranges from one to three years depending on the how severe the problem is for the patient.
  • Estimated costs to decommission a nuclear reactor in France–$322.00 million
  • Stock bonus given to Glenn Kellow, coal executive who led Peabody Energy through bankruptcy-$15.00 million.
  • Amtrak locomotive–$6.50 million.
  • One WWII B-17 in 1945–$238,329.00
  • Apple i-phone 6–$549.00
  • Month of fitness classes in Ohio-$129.00
  • One barrel of Brent Crude Oil as of 7 July 2017–$49.15
  • A 2008 prediction of one gallon of gasoline in 2015–$9.15.
  • The cost of one day in the hospital.
    • State/local government hospitals–$1,878
    • Nonprofit hospitals–$2,289
    • For-profit hospitals–$1791
  • Each university online course cost around $300 or $400 per credit hour. On top of that, several classes had application fees in the $30-$50 range.
  • Investments in US wind projects over the past ten years–$128.00 billion.
  • Global airport security market by 2023-$12.72 billion.
  • Cost of rumored purchase of home in LA for Beyoncé and JayZ– $93 million for 30,000 square feet, 10 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms.
  • Next generation wind technology for R&D through 2026–$36.90 billion.
  • Johnny Depp’s yacht–$33.00
  • The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,895, according to the January 2015 Citi habitat market report.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of the world’s population remain low-income or poor, living off  ten ($10) or less a day, according to a new Pew Research Center report that looked at changes in income for 111 countries between 2001 and 2011.  On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from Britain and Democracy was born. Every day thousands leave their homeland to come to the “land of the free and the home of the brave” so they can begin their American Dream.  That American Dream has allowed our people to succeed, fail, and try again.  Without our system of government, even with all of its flaws and shortcomings, we just might be one of those third-world countries in which ten dollars per day is the norm.  Happy Birthday America.

RISE OF THE MACHINES

March 20, 2017


Movie making today is truly remarkable.  To me, one of the very best parts is animation created by computer graphics.  I’ve attended “B” movies just to see the graphic displays created by talented programmers.  The “Terminator” series, at least the first movie in that series, really captures the creative essence of graphic design technology.  I won’t replay the movie for you but, the “terminator” goes back in time to carry out its prime directive—Kill John Conner.  The terminator, a robotic humanoid, has decision-making capability as well as human-like mobility that allows the plot to unfold.  Artificial intelligence or AI is a fascinating technology many companies are working on today.  Let’s get a proper definition of AI as follows:

“the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Question:  Are Siri, Cortana, and Alexa eventually going to be more literate than humans? Anyone excited about the recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning should also be concerned about human literacy as well. That’s according to Protect Literacy , a global campaign, backed by education company Pearson, aimed at creating awareness and fighting against illiteracy.

Project Literacy, which has been raising awareness for its cause at SXSW 2017, recently released a report, “ 2027: Human vs. Machine Literacy ,” that projects machines powered by AI and voice recognition will surpass the literacy levels of one in seven American adults in the next ten (10) years. “While these systems currently have a much shallower understanding of language than people do, they can already perform tasks similar to simple text search task…exceeding the abilities of millions of people who are nonliterate,” Kate James, Project Literacy spokesperson and Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer at Pearson, wrote in the report. In light of this the organization is calling for “society to commit to upgrading its people at the same rate as upgrading its technology, so that by 2030 no child is born at risk of poor literacy.”  (I would invite you to re-read this statement and shudder in your boots as I did.)

While the past twenty-five (25) years have seen disappointing progress in U.S. literacy, there have been huge gains in linguistic performance by a totally different type of actor – computers. Dramatic advances in natural language processing (Hirschberg and Manning, 2015) have led to the rise of language technologies like search engines and machine translation that “read” text and produce answers or translations that are useful for people. While these systems currently have a much shallower understanding of language than people do, they can already perform tasks similar to the simple text search task above – exceeding the abilities of millions of people who are nonliterate.

According to the National National Centre for Education Statistics machine literacy has already exceeded the literacy abilities of the estimated three percent (3%) of non-literate adults in the US.

Comparing demographic data from the Global Developer Population and Demographic Study 2016 v2 and the 2015 Digest of Education Statistics finds there are more software engineers in the U.S. than school teachers, “We are focusing so much on teaching algorithms and AI to be better at language that we are forgetting that fifty percent (50%)  of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level,” Project Literacy said in a statement.  I retired from General Electric Appliances.   Each engineer was required to write, or at least the first draft, of the Use and Care Manuals for specific cooking products.  We were instructed to 1.) Use plenty of graphic examples and 2.) Write for a fifth-grade audience.  Even with that, we know from experience that many consumers never use and have no intention of reading their Use and Care Manual.  With this being the case, many of the truly cool features are never used.  They may as well buy the most basic product.

Research done by Business Insider reveals that thirty-two (32) million Americans cannot currently read a road sign. Yet at the same time there are ten (10) million self-driving cars predicted to be on the roads by 2020. (One could argue this will further eliminate the need for literacy, but that is debatable.)  If we look at literacy rates for the top ten (10) countries on our planet we see the following:

Citing research from Venture Scanner , Project Literacy found that in 2015 investment in AI technologies, including natural language processing, speech recognition, and image recognition, reached $47.2 billion. Meanwhile, data on US government spending shows that the 2017 U.S. Federal Education Budget for schools (pre-primary through secondary school) is $40.4 billion.  I’m not too sure funding for education always goes to benefit students education. In other words, throwing more money at this problem may not always provide desired results, but there is no doubt, funding for AI will only increase.

“Human literacy levels have stalled since 2000. At any time, this would be a cause for concern, when one in ten people worldwide…still cannot read a road sign, a voting form, or a medicine label,” James wrote in the report. “In popular discussion about advances in artificial intelligence, it is easy

CONCLUSION:  AI will only continue to advance and there will come a time when robotic systems will be programmed with basic decision-making skills.  To me, this is not only fascinating but more than a little scary.

MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK

December 24, 2015


Digital resources for this post are from Mr. Charles Murray, Design News Daily Magazine.  The text is belongs to this writer.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.  College costs have been rising at twice the rate of inflation for more than two decades, but buyers still feel sticker shock when they see the bills. Today, many of the great private engineering schools exceed $50,000 a year in total costs.  I think this is shameful but graduating from a well-known and well-respected university has its benefits and can land a graduate and entry-level salary above the normal levels.

I have listed the top ten (10) most-expensive schools offering engineering degrees.  To be sure, all of these schools offer financial aid, often in substantial amounts.   Thankfully, many students will pay less than the starting figures shown on the following ten (10) slides.

Big state institutions did not make this list for a simple reason — their in-state tuitions are much lower than those of the private institutions shown here. It’s also worth noting that many private schools with costs in the high-$50,000 range came very close, but didn’t quite make the list. MIT, for example, missed by $154.00.  Stanford missed by $6.00.

As you take a look at the slides, try to remember how much you paid for your engineering education.  We start the countdown now with number ten (10) first.  These numbers blew my mind.

Drexell University #10

Smith College

Johns Hopkins

Yale University

Darthmouth University

Bucknell University

Washington University

Columbia University

USC

Harvey Mudd

Let’s hope the student loans and grants produce a well-paying job.  I wonder just how much difference a private university provided compared to a public university.  I believe in the long run, performance is what keeps you from being fired, not the school you graduated from.  Just a thought.

 

2015 ENGINEERING SURVEY

October 21, 2015


The following information was taken from the 2015 Salary Survey conducted by the Machine Design Magazine and The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce by the Congressional Research Service Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment.  The text and descriptions are mine.

The engineering field is an ever-changing environ­ment. To better understand the world we live in—and to help you better understand the state of the industry—Machine Design recently published its 2015 Salary Survey. More than 2,000 engineers responded to the annual survey regarding salary, work environment, benefits, and their views on where the field of engineering is going next.  This sample size is statistically significant and gives a snapshot of the engineering profession as it exists in the United States today.  The digital photographs given below, plus text, will aid your efforts in understanding the “state of engineering” in the 2014/2015 years.

Let’s first look at the breakdown of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions.

STEM CATEGORIES

As you can see, the engineering profession represents approximately twenty-five percent (25%) of the STEM categories. Quite frankly, I was very surprised to see the fifty-six percent (56%) number for the computer occupations.  This definitely shows how greatly this profession has grown in the last decade.

According to the ASME survey, 54.3% of the respondents are fifty-five (55) years old or over and predominantly male. Just over three-quarters are college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The most common principal job function is design and develop­mental engineering at 61.7%.  A much smaller percentage (11.8%) work in engineering management. The most common job title is design/project/R&D engineer at 24.7%. Others include manufacturing/product engineer and chief/senior/ lead/principal engineer at 6.0% and 12.9%, respectively.  Fifty-five years of age will indicate a looming shortage of engineering talent for our country.  A situation that will see companies relocating to other countries or our “importing” qualified foreign nationals to work as engineers for state-side companies.  Greater numbers are entering the profession but those entry-level positions do not equal or exceed the number retiring.

EDUCATION LEVELS:

HIGHEST LEVEL OF EDUCATION

Also very surprised that the number of MS degrees is just about the same as BS degrees.  This is also an ongoing trend occurring just in the last decade or so.  As technology advances, the need for a higher level of education becomes necessary for some engineering disciplines.

EMPLOYMENT:

YEARS AT PRESENT COMPANY

The chart above also indicates a significant change in demographics.  Generally, engineers stay at one company for a lengthy period of time.  This apparently is no longer the case unless there was a significant influx of new graduates in 2015.  Trust me on this one—this is not the case.  Engineers are moving around to find higher salaries and better working conditions.  The possibility for advancement must not be ignored either.

YEARS IN PROFESSION

I definitely agree with the graphic above.  Generally, engineers enjoy the work they do so they stay in the profession for a lengthily period of time.  This chart reflects that fact.

AVERAGE AGE OF ENGINEER

The chart above indicates approximately thirty-eight percent (38%) of engineering professionals are over the age of sixty and contemplating retirement sometime in the very near future.  Their positions are not being filled quickly enough.  Many engineering jobs remain open seeking candidates with the proper skill sets.

COMPENSATION:

COMPENSATION BREAKDOWN AVERAGE COMPENSATION

The chart above speaks for itself.  Engineering is a rewarding profession not only relative to project work but also compensation.  Engineering positions represent one of the highest paid professions available to an individual and entry level salaries can be quite impressive.

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

Due to economic conditions, sixty percent (60%) of the companies indicate hiring will be reduced or remain stagnant.  Our economy and tax structure is forcing more and more companies to locate abroad.  This is extremely detrimental to engineers during job searches.

COMPENSATION BREAKDOWN

As you can see from the above graphic, the computer science field provides the greatest salary level.  This is due to the skill set necessary for the design of hardware.

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AND LOCATION

Once again, the New England and West Coast areas provide the greatest salary levels.  This has been the case for over two decades and will probably not change soon although very high taxes may cause companies to relocate to other states.

JOB SATISFACTION AND OUTSOURCING:

The next three slides speak for themselves and indicate job satisfaction.  By and large, we are a content group of professionals.  There is definitely an indication as to “off-shoring” and the effect that has on job markets in the “states”.

JOB SATISFACTION

MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS

OUTSOURCING

CONTINUING EDUCATION:

Continuing education for the engineering profession has always been a requirement for maintaining a PE license.  There are thirty-six (36) states that require at least twelve (12) hours per year of continuing education.  The next two slides indicate how engineers obtain that education and where they go for it.

CONSTINUING EDUCATION

HOW ARE ENGINEERS KEEPING UP

I certainly hope you have enjoyed this write-up and it will be beneficial to you.  As always, I welcome your comments.


The following post uses as references:  Bloomberg Business, National Council on Higher Education, The Business Insider, and The College Board.

May 7 (Bloomberg) — A group of bankers that advises the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors has warned that farmland prices are inflating “a bubble” and growth in student-loan debt has “parallels to the housing crisis.  “Recent growth in student-loan debt, to nearly $1 trillion, now exceeds credit-card outstandings and has parallels to the housing crisis,” the council said in its Feb. 3, 2012, meeting. The trend has continued, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau saying in March 2012 that student debt had topped a record $1 trillion.

I was extremely surprised when first reading this statement published in Bloomberg Business.  That surprise lasted about ten seconds.  My wife and I put three boys through college; Mercer University, Tulane University and the University of Georgia.  Even though they worked and had scholarships, the cost of a university education, even ten years ago, was daunting to a working engineer and his working wife.  I can categorically state the cost of tuition for our three increased between three (3) and ten (10) percent each year depending upon the school.  Have you purchased textbooks lately?  Our youngest son had a book bill approaching $600.00 one semester. He was an undergraduate.  Absolutely ridiculous.  Of course this is not to mention lab fees, parking permits, mandated university health insurance and a host of other requirements the universities levied upon students and their parents. The chart below will indicate the increases by year.  As you can see, these numbers are for public colleges.

TUITION INFLATION

The next chart will indicate tuition and total costs by region for two and four year colleges both public and private.

TUITION AND TOTAL COSTS

Seven in ten (10) seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,400 per borrower. This represents a two percent increase from the average debt of 2012 public and nonprofit graduates.  The map below indicates graphically the problem by region.

STUDENT LOAN BY STATE AND REGION

The twenty (20) high-debt public colleges had an individual average debt levels ranging from $33,950 to $48,850, while the twenty (20) high-debt nonprofit colleges ranged from $41,750 to $71,350. Of the twenty (20) low-debt colleges listed, nine were public and eleven (11) were nonprofit schools, with reported average debt levels ranging between $2,250 and $11,200.

Let’s now congratulate the class of 2014. You now “enjoy” being the class with the most individual student debt in history.  This comes at a time when job opportunities are at a minimum.

THE CLASS OF 2014

From the experience my wife and I had with our three boys, I’m not surprised at the following chart.  As you can see, those who wish to obtain a college degree are sometimes forced to secure loans due to the extremely high tuition, book and living expenses. In looking at the graph below, we see that number approaching seventy percent (70%).

MORE STUDENTS TAKING ON DEBT

The next one is really scary.  Take a look.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND WHAT THEY OWE VS WHAT THEY MAKE

Student debt up approximately thirty-five percent (35%) and earned income down five percent (5%) from the year 2009.

One individual, in business, has recognized the gravity relative to this issue—Mr. Mark Cuban.

Mark Cuban states:

“It’s inevitable at some point there will be a cap on student loan guarantees. And when that happens you’re going to see a repeat of what we saw in the housing market: when easy credit for buying or flipping a house disappeared we saw a collapse in the price housing, and we’re going to see that same collapse in the price of student tuition, and that’s going to lead to colleges going out of business.”

I honestly believe Mr. Cuban is correct.  Our economy either improves with significant increases in individual earning power or great issues with student debt will create a situation where smaller less prestigious colleges and even universities will have to close.  The drop in enrollment will be significant.  We have already experienced that in our town with two four year colleges closing.

OK, the big question.  With the economy being in “the tank”, is a four year college degree worth it?  Would it be better and with less stress to look at the “trades”?

  • Plumber. The median salary for a plumber was $50,180 in 2013, the BLS reports. The best-paid pulled in about $86,120, while those in the bottom 10 percent earned $29,590 a year.
  • Electrician Salary: $55,783 (average).
  • Average Machinist Salary: $37,000.
  • Auto Mechanic. The median annual salary for mechanic and automotive technicians was $36,710 in 2013. The highest earners in the field made about $61,210, while the lowest-paid took home $20,920.
  • CAD Technician Salary: $47,966 (average)

Please don’t misunderstand, I have a four year degree in Engineering and love the profession.  The university experience is wonderful and extremely rewarding, but maybe learning a trade and going to night school to obtain that four year degree is not such a bad idea after all.  Even if it does mean an eight or ten year journey.  If there is one thing I have learned in my seventy-two years: we have time. YES, there is time to do what you wish to do.  You have to develop a plan, set realistic goals, stay focused and DO NOT GIVE UP.

I welcome your comments.

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