(Editor’s note:  A secret about my brother David Braiterman is how funny he can be.  His clients and professional colleagues think “super-competent, no-nonsense, and formidable.”  His friends and people in his temple think “kind, dedicated, and ethical.”   David wrote this while touring engineering schools with his daughter Shira.  

David Braiterman

David Braiterman

“It’s nothing like our experience in liberal arts colleges,” he told me.  ”Most allowed like five non-engineering courses in a college career.  One school’s idea of an elective was choosing from five different chemistry courses.”

Professional engineers are trained to think there is one best solution to every problem.  Once that is demonstrated, every reasonable person will see it immediately, and fall in line to do his or her part.  That’s a big reason why the two professional engineers who became President — Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter — had serious problems.  

Hoover dismissed the idea that government had a responsibility or role to play in the Great Depression — not in relieving the  human suffering, or fixing the broken business cycle.  

Carter went to a mountaintop for 10 days and came down with the best solution to the energy crisis.  He revealed it in a televised speech, and called it the Moral Equivalent of War.  The plan was immediately dubbed MEOW, and died instantly.

H.Ross Perot’s 1992 Presidential campaign peaked and began to implode when he replaced his passiomate, amateur volunteers with professionals.

Ken Braiterman

How Engineers Built a Better Mousetrap

By David  Braiterman


A competition was scheduled for which engineering department could build a better mousetrap using Cheez-Wiz and other tools in their departments.  Results were, well, revealing:

First to come in with their solution was the Chemical Engineering team.  Beginning with D-Con as their base useful material, the team added Cheez-Wiz to make the product more delectable, and frankly irresistible, to the average mouse.  The team chimed in with an impressive 8 mouse kills in a one-hour trial.  Combined score for effectiveness was 9 of a possible 10, but innovation points for the rather mundane approach was only 2, for a combined score of 11.  Good job, Chem-E’s.

Next to step up were the Civil Engineers.  The Civ-E’s began by luring the mice toward the Cheez-Wiz and then corralling them with sound waves circling around in a spiral pattern.  With 14 mice so convened, the team of students then unleashed a torrent of water through the department’s river flume, and drowned the unsuspecting rodents.

Thirteen successful kills for thirteen points, and four more points for innovation and technique, made for a combined score of 17, a very strong performance.  Team leader Shawn Mussman found the 14th mouse doing back stroke toward the dining hall later that day.

Engineers plan for a better mousetrap

Engineers’ plan for a better mousetrap

Electrical engineers were next up with, well, an unconventional approach.  Betsy Uhrlich, team captain, pointed out that the team immediately rejected the old-fashioned zap ‘em approach predicted by others for the Elec-E’s to typically lite upon.  The team used the Cheez Wiz’s conductive properties to form a vaporous cloud of cheese goo hovering over the entire arena.  The mice, drunk in a lactose-induced stupor, tripped over one another to reach the alluring smell.

“And then we zapped ‘em, “ Uhrlich said.  “It’s what we do!   220 Volts worth, to leave no doubt about who was king.  No mouse was going to limp away from our demonstration,” said Urhlich with a devilish grin on her face.  19 points, and second place.  Awesome!!

Electric mouse zapper

Electric mouse zapper

Finally the Mechanical Engineers had their turn.  The Mech-E’s spent the first two weeks of their research examining just how Cheez-Wiz behaves in different thermal states.  Too warm, and the Cheez got so runny the mice just waded across like Moses across the Red Sea.  Too cold, and they hopped from curd to curd and off to freedom.

“The ideal temperature for maximum rodentia capture capacity” according to Matt Heugel,  was determined to be 42.236 Degrees Celcius.  Cheez Wiz depth of not less than .39 mm proved enough sticking capacity while also maximizing the spreading capacity of the 2 liter allotment of orange goo.

“From the outset,”  Heugel commented, ”We wanted at least 8 square feet of coverage.    42.236 Degrees Celcius allowed us a commanding 8.72 square feet.”

All in all, not a single mouse swaggered in and escaped the Mech-E’s clever snare, and with 14 captures and 7 innovation/precision planning points to their favor, the Mech-E’s took this year’s competition with an unprecedented 21 points.

No escape from warm Cheez Whiz

No escape from warm Cheez Whiz

Again this year the Nuclear Engineers were disqualified for incinerating the building housing this year’s competition as well as the southeast quadrant of the campus and much of the town’s downtown shopping district.  Better luck next year, Nuc-E’s.

Thanks to all who participated, and we look forward to an even better competition again next year.


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