Volkswagon Scandal

A large part of our discussions in the IDEAS seminars is on engineering ethics, and what it means to be an engineer in our present time and to stick to a moral and ethical code at the same time. We talked about this topic in relation to Challenger and  Woburn (water contamination in A Civil Action), along with other works.

Along with this discussion goes the question, “When will we learn?”. People have written about and known about engineering ethical failures throughout history ,and yet they continue to happen today. This is shown plainly in the Volkswagen diesel engine scandal that just erupted recently. Individuals at the company knew of the faulty emission systems and how they would not have been approved by environmental regulators.

Instead of doing what is best for the customers, and taking maybe the time and extra cost to make sure that the software was functioning correctly, they took an easy way out, to try and deceive others instead of practicing ethical engineering. Now, they are dealing with an aftermath that will affect their sales and reputation, when it all could have been avoided.

Article from the New York Times on the scandal and investigation:


Arabic Culture Night

I recently attended an event at Lehigh called Arabic Culture Night, where students could learn a little bit about Arabic culture, see and learn dances, and eat delicious food. It is really great when the school does something like this, to expose students to cultures that they may be unfamiliar with. We of course have many international students at Lehigh, but how much do students from the US think about and understand these other cultures that their peers may come from?

Seeking to understand and looking for ways to step into the shoes of others should be an important part of college life. Some students may not have had the opportunity to get acquainted with cultures other than their own, and a perfect chance to do so is through nights like this. Many students, especially IDEAS students, wish to make a real difference in the world, and the best way to do this is to seek to understand how the world works outside of the “Lehigh bubble”.

Chapter 1: Alone Together

This unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/7067121615

This week I started reading a book titled: Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle. I’ve only made it about 20 or so pages and I’m already interested/fascinated by something that has been brought up. In the first few pages Turkle begins talking about the implementation of robots/ artificial intelligence in mainstream society. Now, initially, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea. However, Turkle brings up a very simple, yet profound, idea that people are beginning to expect more from the technological than from the biological.

Turkle talks about how, in her study, people often times find themselves getting frustrated with the complexity of human relationships. In many cases, people suggest that artificial intelligence would be easier to get along with and more enjoyable simply because it is easier. This disturbs me. A lot. Relationships are not supposed to be easy. I can see why some people might wish for them to be, but ultimately, the struggles are what make the relationship valuable and without that they mean very little. Sure, I could go buy some generic chocolate chip cookies from a grocery store, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Homemade cookies are infinitely better. To take this analogy a little farther, the cookies are better simply because we’ve tasted the burned ones, the odd ones, and the three-headed mutant cookie that your baby sibling made. Yet in the end, all of these failures lead us to that final cookie. That little bit of heaven on earth.



You know you’re a first year when…

This Wednesday we had registration for the spring semester classes. If you read my previous blog on how that works, you’ll understand how stressful it can be. However, for the most part it went pretty well. I got two of the classes I wanted the most easily, and I even got the back-up class I wanted. Yet, the main problem came from registering for my Anthropology class. When I entered the course number it kept returning an error that I didn’t have the proper “classification”. I emailed the department and my professors trying to figure out what in the world the problem was. Just this morning my professor got back to me and said that “Doing Archaeology” (that’s the name of the course) was a 100 level course, which freshman can’t take. *face-palm* It wasn’t a problem with my grades or prerequisites, it was simply that I was still a first year. (I feel like I should point out that I did get into the class thanks to my professor being awesome).images

Anyway, that’s something I’ve been realizing a lot. I know a ton of stuff. I’ve been here for almost a full semester now and my brain is buzzing with the new life I’ve been living. Yet every now and again I always seem to find myself getting smacked back to the reality that I am a freshman. My Gryphon has  catchphrase (among many others) that seems to pertain to this situation. I may still be a freshman, but, to quote him “That is okay.”

So yes, I am still a freshman, and that’s okay with me. Yeah, it can be a bit difficult at times, even overwhelming, but ultimately I’m learning. I’m getting better. I’m making less mistakes and in many ways that’s the truest college experience.

***The unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/darkuncle/4421755040


Turkey Season

Welcome to November. Notice the falling leaves, and ever decreasing daily temperature. Watch as people struggle to decide whether to wear that sweatshirt in the morning or if they should go full winter marshmallow.  November is also home to a very well known holiday, at least here in the U.S. Can you guess to which one I’m referring?

If you thought immediately of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing; you’re right. Thanksgiving. That holiday we all celebrate but only in the sense that we eat until we physically can no longer support our own body weight. Back in the day, (pre-college years) there was always this growing anticipation for what was to come. Yet, now that I’m at Lehigh and part of this community, that sentiment has taken on an air of sadness.

At first, heading home sounds like a fantastic idea. No tests, little to no studying, and perhaps most importantly: No Homework. Yet this also means, no midnight pancakes with your chums. No more game nights, no more people to prank, and just overall less diversity. When I walk down my hall, I always walk into someone and for a few moments as we talk I get a glimpse into someone else’s life. Back home, there simply aren’t as many people to hear stories from.

This unmodified picture is from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lehighvalleypa/1564322589

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be getting a break and catching up with old buddies. But I’ve realized now that November will never really be the same again *sigh*.


How to deal with Finals

So finals are just around the corner and people are already starting to freak out about this fact. It’s really surprising how fast time goes by here at Lehigh. Now, there are three things you can do about finals. The first, and perhaps the easiest is to just freak out, blow a gasket, and run around manically stressing yourself out. You could also pretend that final exams aren’t real and that they don’t really exist. You can then go on with your life, not study, and life goes on.

But there is a middle road. There’s the road that says: “Bro- there’s only so much you can do about this exam. If you’ve been doing your work and staying on top of everything, you can do this. Keep working hard, study what you need to and you’ll probably still have time to do the things you want.” Now sure, this probably seems a bit obvious. Yet for some reason we still see people cramming for exams the week before they happen. Maybe this works for them, I don’t really know, but in my opinion, sometimes people just need to take a step back and relax. Stressing about exams almost always seems to back-fire.

So yes, perhaps this is just me rationalizing the fact that I’m not studying from dusk till dawn, but sometimes someone just has to come out and say it. Hopefully this mindset helps someone else. If not- well it works for me and I’m okay with that.800px-Lewis_Hine,_Boy_studying,_ca._1924

I’ve got an IDEA

So, if you’ve managed to survive the pun that is the title of this blog, congratulations! You are now able to keep reading and see IDEAS in action on a live test subject (me!). Thinking

For the past few months I’ve been wondering what exactly I’m planning on doing with my degree. How should I make it? What should I make do? What classes should I take? For some reason it’s finally setting in that I truly have the freedom to answers those questions however I want and whenever I want (within 3-ish years). After assembling a 30+ credit schedule and having a ton of courses I wanted to take, I’ve finally made up my mind. I’m still not really sure how these courses will fit together in the long run (some fit better than others) but the reality is, no matter what course I take, I can probably tie it back to my degree in some way or another. For example, next semester there is this really awesome course called “Doing Archaeology.” Now, I’m leaning heavily in the direction of bio-engineering and psychology, how exactly does this fit in? Well, one could easily argue that through archaeology one studies human history and past cultures/behaviors which gives us a better understanding of how past people thought and how their brain works. That kind of falls into the realm of psychology which I’m looking into… so… viola- a useful course that is also super cool.

I’ve also recently become aware of the fact that it’s very possible I could graduate with a minor in something. My ideal choice would be a minor in anthropology/archaeology and that makes my “Doing Archaeology” course even more exciting. In conclusion, no. No, I don’t know where any of this is really taking me, but I’, just going to sit back, and enjoy the ride there because I’m sure it will all work out in the end. Somehow.