News for the NSPE Community October 2012

Is Engineering Dying?

"Is engineering dying? It isn't clear, but in developed countries around the world young people would rather go to the dentist than go into engineering," writes Dave Goldberg in the October issue of PE. "Law, business, and medicine—just about anything but engineering—seem to be the preference of today's youth."

Goldberg, a former professor of entrepreneurial engineering and president and founder of ThreeJoy Associates Inc., says the future needs more capable engineers, but something happens to students on their way to becoming engineers. He sees three reasons engineering may be dying:

1. Engineering education is upside-down and backward. Engineering education is a math-science death march in which mathematics and science are viewed as "the fundamentals" and design and technology are viewed as mere "applications."

2. Engineering education is embedded in a dysfunctional culture that delights in the failure of those it educates. It is common enough to have become a cliché. An engineering professor stands at the front of a class and says, "Look to your right, look to your left, two of the three of you won't be here next year." 

3. Engineering is perceived as a low-status profession in which the engineer is socially captive to the will of nonengineers. There is a belief that engineers often work in organizations in which they have little control over the work they do, following the orders of professional managers, who carry out goals set by corporate chieftains.

Read the rest of Goldberg's article, including his suggestions for what to do in the October issue of PE.

What do you think? Send your comments to


New York Society Backs QBS

As the New York State Senate considered legislation to modernize the delivery of public projects, the New York State Society of Professional Engineers provided recommendations including the use of qualifications-based selection and the involvement of PEs in critical roles on these projects.

The bill (S. 3035) would permit the use of alternative methods for project delivery in addition to design-bid-build for construction and repairs to state buildings. The use of alternative methods will allow for the use of technologies and best practices to increase efficiency and improve quality and sustainability.

The legislation calls for the use of QBS for selecting professional engineers and registered architects to serve in design-build and manager-at-risk positions. Licensed engineers and architects can serve as the owner’s project representative independently from the principal design firm on a project. In addition, a credentialed inspector will provide direct reports to the project owner or the owner’s design representative for mandatory inspections and testing.

NYSSPE supports the expansion of QBS for the procurement of design professionals as well as safeguards to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. The New York society believes the legislation can be improved if the following changes are made:

  • Removal of provisions authorizing some government entities to use alternative project delivery without sufficient detail and quality assurance safeguards.
  • Inclusion of an amendment to ensure that the scope of practice and responsibility for the design of buildings is consistent with current law for both professional engineers and architects.
  • Addition of a provision prohibiting improper blanket indemnification of a general contractor by a design professional. The intent is to insure that parties are held directly accountable for their respective scope of responsibilities owed to a project owner and the public.
  • Addition of a quality assurance provision that applies to all design build contracts, which allows a primary design firm unrestricted access to a project owner or owner’s design representative.

The bill’s quality assurance safeguards (including use of qualifications-based selection) are similar to provisions included in request for proposals pursuant to legislation enacted in December that authorizes state agencies to use design-build for road and bridge projects. The procurement process for the Tappan Zee Bridge project, is the first project covered by the new law. [ return to top ]


40 Years Ago, Law Put Engineers' Qualifications First

During his 42-year tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, former Congressman Jack Brooks of Texas was known as a tough, cigar-chewing, old-school Democrat, and eventually one of the most powerful members of Congress. Brooks was elected to the House in 1952—the same year Dwight Eisenhower was elected president—and wasn’t defeated for reelection until 1994.

Brooks served as chairman of the House Government Operations Committee and the House Judiciary Committee and was described by a Dallas Morning News columnist as someone “whose penchant for profanity, cigars and playfulness is legendary.”

For all his legislative accomplishments, there is one achievement in particular that engineers and architects associate with Brooks’ years on Capitol Hill. In 1972, Brooks introduced legislation to codify the selection of architects and engineers based on qualifications rather than solely on lowest price. The bill also applied to other A/E-related professional services, such as surveying. President Nixon signed the bill into law on October 27, 1972.

In 2006, NSPE representatives met with Brooks at his home in Beaumont, Texas, to discuss the Brooks Act and his legacy in the A/E community.

Read the full article (PDF) from the October 2006 issue of PE. [ return to top ]


Don't Miss Out on NSPE's Webinars

NSPE's fall webinar series continues with an exciting and informative lineup to address your professional development needs. Get a group of your colleagues together in the conference room and all of you can participate and receive credit for the low member price of $99 for most of the webinars. Each webinar is held from 12:30–1:30 p.m. EST.

Upcoming webinars include:

November 1
Lean Construction

November 15
The Pros and Cons of Using Consultants

November 28
Engineering Ethics: Business Issues

December 13
Ethics and Risk Management: When "Trust Me" Isn't Enough

Access the entire fall webinar schedule on the NSPE Web site. Don't miss out! Register online today! [ return to top ]


Legal Beat Q&A: Helping Veterans

Question: I am a returning veteran and plan to study engineering and become a professional engineer. I understand that some states have programs to support students and veterans who wish to take the examinations to become professional engineers. Can you give me an example of a state with programs like this? (Afghanistan)

Answer: Yes. As an example, active members or veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States who live, work, or are stationed in Kentucky may be reimbursed for successful completion of any exam given by the Kentucky Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors, following submission of a written request for the
reimbursement and proof of service. Students enrolled in a Kentucky university may be reimbursed for successfully completing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam or the Fundamentals of Surveying Exam.

Responses are based on questions posed to NSPE Legal Counsel Arthur Schwartz. These questions and answers do not, in any way, constitute legal advice. Always consult your own attorney before reaching any conclusions or acting upon any information presented in this forum. Also note that legal precedents change. An answer based on a case from several years ago may have a new perspective today.

Are you an NSPE member with a legal question for this column? Send it to Arthur Schwartz, 1420 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314-2794; fax 703-836-4875; or e-mail  [ return to top ]


The Best of Engineering Education

What are the most important issues facing university engineering programs today and what are the best practices that are being put to use? That’s what NSPE’s Professional Engineers in Higher Education wants to find out.

In order to start a conversation among engineering programs, PEHE is calling for submissions to their Best Practices Project. The project aims to address all important issues facing university engineering programs and professors. A brief form is available on the PEHE Web page and asks for best practices in areas such as ethics, capstone design, and diversity. It encourages contributors to include materials such as PowerPoint presentations and charts to support their proposed best practices. [ return to top ]


Summer Fellowship Opportunity

Applications are now being accepted for the Milton F. Lunch Research Fellowship, an eight-week summer program that focuses on professional liability and risk management in engineering and architecture.

The fellowship has two components: an educational segment, advancing the fellow’s understanding of professional liability and risk management; and a research segment, addressing a specific source of engineering or architectural risk.

Applicants must be either a U.S. student or faculty member of engineering, architecture, construction, and law, intending to pursue a career in one of those fields. Writing samples, transcripts, and recommendations will be required with applications due by January 25, 2013.The awarded fellow will receive an $8,000 stipend and work in the Maryland office of Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc., just outside Washington, D.C.

Named for the former general counsel of NSPE, the program is sponsored by Schinnerer in conjunction with the Society. The fellowship has been awarded since 2002. [ return to top ]


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