I am American; I agree that the writing skills of many Americans are sub-par. At the same time I have noticed many Americans with whom I have frequent e-mail contact don't consider e-mail as formal writing. Instead many seem to view it as an extension of a conversation in which grammar and punctuation are less important. I am not defending that idea, simply bringing it up. Also, I am surprised you have not witnessed a similar issue with Asians or others whose primary language is not English. I work with people from many different countries whose primary language is not English; in almost all e-mail communication I receive there are numerous grammar, capitalization, and punctuation errors. However, it doesn't bother me because I am quite certain in all cases the writer's English is much better than my Mandarin, Hindi, German, Dutch, well, you get the idea!
:-) Generally if I can make sense of what the person is trying to communicate I am happy.
That isn't the case for my kids. They can (and have) received Ds for bad work. The could receive an F (although that has not happened). Interestingly, all the motivation/reward system we can devise has not been as effective as a low grade - failure does build character.
I have read a lot comments hear that lament the plight of the engineer with regards to what companies are willing to pay, work conditions, etc. I have experienced many of the same issues in my career and have come to the conclusion that the best way for me to deal with it is to start my own company. Before the flaming begins, I am not advocating that everyone try it; it isn't the best choice for everyone. However, if you have come to a point in your career that you feel that trapped and not being paid what you are worth, it might be viable. There are a lot of potential clients that view engineering of all stripes as magic, they don't understand it and they don't want to. They just want it design/improved/fixed, etc. Granted for certain types of engineering, a start up can be difficult (e.g. mechanical, bio-medical, electrical), but if you can find one niche you are really good at, you can make a huge amount of money. In software engineering currently, if you have some experience with healthcare (clinical and business) there is a lot of opportunity. Also, if you are an American citizen, you will have one huge advantage - citizenship. H1Bs and others on different types of visas have restrictions on what they e allowed to do - starting companies is usually one of them if they have been sponsored. You might even take advantage of the current climate by doing what your company is doing, hire them at a much cheaper rate than other Americans. Or you can be purist and insist that you want to employ American citizens only. Even with the financial meltdown, there is still a lot of money on the table institutions are willing to lend for start ups, especially if you are a minority or female. Again, this is NOT a good choice for everyone, but for some it might be worth looking into. As Americans, it is unfortunate we are living in these times because we are in a huge transition that leaves a lot of uncertainty. I don't necessarily agree with the tenant that America is in decline, but rather the world is changing and other countries are rapidly catching up with the prosperity the US once was known for. And these countries will rapidly hit the same problems we have now. Eventually equilibrium will probably be reached; whether that occurs in our lifetime or not is anyone's guess. If you are an engineer of any type or considering engineering as a career, don't discount it yet. I think this is a rough patch, but it will pass. We might all have to be willing to work in places we wouldn't expect on projects that we wouldn't have chosen of our own free will. If you are really an engineer to the core though, it won't matter because you have to build things, its in your nature.
This type of storage system makes perfect sense while we are in transition from paper to e-books. Sure, you can buy new e-books on Amazon, but what about those esoteric, academic books. They are not yet priority for scanning projects, but they still might have value for research. If the day comes that all the paper books are purged from the library and replaced with e-book equivalents, this building can be used to store other stuff. Still, funny this is considered news, we have this at our university for 5 or 6 years.
I second the advice offered here. Especially the idea of starting small and iterating to finally become what you want. Ignore the naysayers and negativity you have experienced here. Several people have offered solid advice, so focus on that.
I say congrats to these students. Yes, some of these apps are really stupid, but so was the ChiaPet, the pet rock, Lava Lamps, etc. In fact, there have been a lot of stupid products over the years that have made their inventors/developers/etc. millions. This class accomplished exactly what business schools want students to learn: develop a product, find a market, sell the product, make money. From TFA one former student is now employing 30 people and just raised 6 million dollars in venture capital. At least he is now affecting the economy in a positive way by providing jobs. I wish more schools would take risks like this to encourage students to do create businesses. Perhaps a lot of the products will be basic and not technically innovate, but some of them will. And as one person posted, over time as the phone app market matures, silly apps will be less attractive and people will want good games and productivity tools for their phones.