More on that “STEM Shortage”

I seem to have a lot of readers in STEM fields, so when I came across this article from earlier in the year, noting that Electrical Engineering lost 35,000 jobs last year, I thought I’d share it. I think Electrical Engineering job losses are largely because we’re too productive for our own good. Currently I’ve been doing more electrical engineering work, mostly with micro controllers, and I have to say it’s a hell of a lot easier these days than it was years ago. The chips do more, they are faster, and boards can be a lot simpler. Hell, a Raspberry Pi is more powerful than my workstation was in college. I would have believed you then that you could fit a 700MHz RISC computer with 512MB RAM and 32GB of storage in the palm of your hand, and run Linux on it, but it would have then and still kind of stuns me. And the Pi is really just meant to be a teaching tool!

13 thoughts on “More on that “STEM Shortage””

  1. The most amazing thing I have ever heard regarding computers is what they used on the Apolo missions to get to the moon and back had less computing power than a LCD watch has today.

    Amazing what they were able to do with something just slightly better than a slide rule.

  2. Quite honestly the only thing that saves us Aeros from productivity attrition is the massive regulatory compliance burden. Legally there’s simply no faster, easier way to comply with airworthiness requirements than throw engineers at the problem to do all the requisite analysis…

    1. There’s also that for some areas fluid/areo dynamics, stress and thermal analysis computers aren’t, yet, fast enough to make meshing of componetns and passages automatic.

      Let alone applying boundary loads and solving over a flight mission in transient.

      But as you say the reason analysis has to be done that way…

      1. Even structural analysis is like that at times. When I’ve HAD to do FEA (I really despise structural analysis) no matter how good the mesh generator and bounding algorithms are supposed to be, I’ve always had to make a multitude of manual adjustments.

        There’s also the dirty little secret in the aero world that most won’t admit. A big chunk of what we do is rule of thumb/judgement kind of stuff that no computer short of skynet is going to accomplish…

        1. Indeed. There’s a lot of stuff that has to be “engineering judgement”

          Just talk to a thermals engineer about convective cooling correlations, or a materials engineer about composite properties, or an flow engineer about mixing and turbulence.

          In truth all of these things could be explicitely calculated, but the calcualtions are, so far, prohibitive, and wouldn’t be right anyway.

          This is especially true given how hard telemetry and test data can be, and the judgement calls needed in getting predictive modesl to match.

  3. I’m old enough to have been among the first designers to work with the 8008. Over the years I’ve wandered between analog and digital
    and to say something like the ‘Pi is is amazing is serious understatement. The ‘Pi is an example of SOC something I started talking about back in the late ’70s with the then generation of single chip computers, the latest generation is just more of same. Yes, a whole lot more.

    There is a yabut… Even the ‘Pi other other SOC needs engineers with enough imagination to put them to use therein lies the gap.
    That gap will keep me from retirement because things are way to interesting disengage and retire. After all, there’s a shortage, a lack of mentors, and way to many things to build yet.

    That and I really need a replicator!


  4. “Oh, and it has a 100 mbit ethernet port, does 2-megapixel 24 bit 3D graphics… and costs $40.”

  5. I love raspberry – I just ordered and experiment kit Pi,case,OS, bread-board etc. If I get it working I might build another one to use as a Music server.

    The Milky-Way Galaxy tastes like raspberry!

  6. STEM covers a lot of fields and degree choices. I’d much rather see my kid getting a STEM degree and not a social sciences or art/music degree.

  7. Far too many people ignore the M in STEM, because there are jobs all over the place for machinists, tool and die makers, mold and pattern makers, production and process engineers all across the land yet everyone is fixated on the STE part and the college degrees that go with them regardless of their current employment outlooks.

    1. Actually, the “M” stands for “Mathematics”, not for “Machining”. That isn’t to say that machining isn’t important, or fascinating, or whatever…indeed, I would go so far as to add that machining is rather neglected right now, because it isn’t a “white collar” job that a college degree is supposed to guarantee you.

      Having said that, as someone with a mathematics degree, wishing to work on pure mathematics, but stuck working as a software engineer…I would have to say that, at least from an economic standpoint, the “M” in “STEM” is largely overrated too. (As something wonderful to study, I couldn’t get enough of it!)

      I wish I had discovered machining while I was in high school, rather than as a graduate student. I think I would have been better off if I could have gotten a machining degree, use it to pay for college, and then become a mathematician, rather than get a load of debt and discover that I have no flexibility to get that machining degree…

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