Petroski's column in the May/June Prism caused me to wonder
how many of our generation followed the same path for the same reasons
he did. I was a senior in high school when Sputnik was launchedand
a paperboy, and I was fascinated with the workings of the New Departure
brake on my bicycle.
that Petroski is correctthat many current high school students
consider engineering as a career because of the increased attention
due to 9/11. I hope that many students decide to pursue that goal, not
because a building was demolished but because a career in engineering
provides the opportunity for interesting and meaningful work.
Professor, College of Engineering
College of DuPage (Ill.)
engineer who has had a long interest in the confluence of transportation,
technology, ecology, and the bounds of performance, economy, and design,
I found Down
the Road in the March issue of Prism to be of high quality
compared to most.
my concerns about tomorrow's car are many:
about hydrogen as the clean fuel, but where does hydrogen come from?
It has to be generated either by electrolysis (burning fossil or nuclear
fuel) or reformulation, and most reformulation involves capturing the
energy of the unburned carbon and turning it into hydrogen and carbon
dioxide. Thus, hydrogen is almost as polluting as burning the fuel directly.
cars of today run at far from optimum efficiency. A proper hybrid would
use stored energy (battery or perhaps even flywheel) to power the car.
The IC engine (Otto or Diesel) would run at optimum efficiency and only
run as needed to restore the stored energy. It would not be operated
under varying load.
shedding pounds, automotive engineering seems to have little sense of
history. The 1958-59 era Berkeley was the smallest and lightest
sports car of the post-WWII period. It weighed in at 725 pounds and
could reach 80 miles per hour in street tune. It was unit construction
in fiberglass with aluminum bulkhead stiffeners.
that is emotional to me is the gross promotion of larger vehicles and
the heavy stand against improving fuel efficiency. Today, with reasonable
performance small cars, we manage to get economy in the mid-30s for
our suburban environment. We also have the comforts and good handling
of vehicles built in the past five years.