Video: .MP4, AVC, 1830 kbps, 1280×720 | Audio: English, AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | Duration: 24x33m | 11.18 GB
Course No. 1144 | Lecturer: Stephen Ressler, Ph.D. | + PDF Guidebook
Everyone appreciates a well-designed bridge, a sturdy skyscraper, or a flightworthy aircraft. But how many of us who aren’t engineers think, "I could build that"? In fact, you can. You may not have a professional engineer’s credentials, but you can tinker all you want in your own workshop, using readily available materials to build working models that solve all the fundamental problems of the real thing.
With a do-it-yourself spirit, combined with an engineer’s approach to problem solving, you can design and build small-scale models of practically any structure, machine, or device in today’s world. And in tackling these projects, you will gain a deeper understanding of scientific and engineering principles, a proficiency with basic algebra and trigonometry, and new strategies and skills to use in the shop-all while having fun!
So, roll up your sleeves and get started with Do-It-Yourself Engineering, 17 enthralling DIY projects in 24 half-hour lessons-from ancient catapults to modern flying machines, from a motor-powered crane to a mechanical clock. Some of the most astounding projects you’ll experience include:
Suspension bridge: A suspension bridge spanning eight feet requires two towers roughly five feet high. By calculating the stresses experienced by the structural system when it is fully loaded with pedestrians, you can design and build a light, strong bridge with readily available hardware.
Skyscraper: An ideal introduction to the engineering of tall buildings is a tower structure built with just a few sheets of cardboard, which can be fashioned into sturdy columns, beams, and braces. A properly engineered tower, three feet high, can support more than 100 pounds of bricks stacked on top!
Airplane: The Wright brothers built a wind tunnel to develop a wing design for their airplane. So can you, using an ordinary house fan. Your model aircraft will also need a propulsion system, three-axis stability, and a means of controlling its flight path-problems you can solve with the aid of elementary aerodynamic theory.
Your instructor is award-winning educator Stephen Ressler, a DIY addict and Professor Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a long-time Great Courses favorite.
A Step-by-Step Guide
Professor Ressler walks you through all the phases of each project, describing the design process, performing the construction steps on camera, and illustrating them with detailed drawings that he prepared himself, including lifelike 3D computer models. The accompanying Course Guide provides all required mathematical calculations for each design, step-by-step instructions for construction, a complete list of materials and tools, and a set of full-size templates that you can print for use in cutting out parts. Furthermore, you can go to the course website to download your own copies of the 3D computer models and other resources.
A do-it-yourselfer’s dream come true, this course will appeal not just to those who want to build challenging projects, but also anyone who wants to learn how to think like an engineer or who enjoys watching a master craftsman at work. Professor Ressler uses high-school-level algebra and trigonometry throughout the course, which he explains as he goes, so that even those whose math skills are rusty will have the tools to thoroughly enjoy every step of the process.
Do-It-Yourself Engineering was recorded in The Great Courses’ studio and on location at a modest workshop equipped with common benchtop power tools. Professor Ressler divides each project into three phases:
Design: Here, Dr. Ressler defines the problem, often investigating several possible solutions. Then, he selects one and develops it in detail, sketching the evolving concept on a whiteboard. This is where math enters the picture, along with physical principles such as the law of conservation of energy. These principles allow you to predict how the device will perform, even before it’s built.
Build: Many DIY’ers begin here, with trial-and-error tinkering that involves much wasted effort and materials. It’s crucial to have a fully developed plan first, as you learn to do in this course. For the build phase, Professor Ressler shows you how to use power and hand tools in each step, stressing safety. In these instructive segments, he is the quintessential shop teacher.
Test: This is the moment of truth and sometimes the occasion for creative troubleshooting to solve problems. For the sailboat, blimp, airplane, helicopter, and rocket, it is the opportunity for fine-tuning to prepare the vehicle for the next run. For the two bridges, it guarantees that the structure is safe for pedestrian traffic. For the three catapults, it means it’s time for the battle to begin!
Learn by Doing
Make! Invent! Create! These are some of the slogans of the Maker Culture, which is transforming education through its focus on exploration, self-reliance, and the joys of building things. Do-It-Yourself Engineering fits right in with this outlook. Some 2,400 years ago Aristotle wrote, "we learn by doing." It’s still true today. Anyone can buy a fully functioning model airplane on the internet, but by designing and building one from scratch you discover what makes an airplane fly; how it ascends, descends, and turns; what keeps it stable; and what produces the dangerous phenomenon called stalling. Some of your other learning adventures in this course include:
Buoyancy: Buoyancy is the force that causes boats to float-even those made of concrete. It’s also the reason why a helium-filled blimp rises. In both cases, mathematics allows you to calculate the size your vessel must be to ensure that the buoyant force will support the model’s weight.
Torque: The rotational force known as torque plays a prominent role in the design of many engineered systems. For your model helicopter, the substantial torque generated by the main rotor must be countered by a tail rotor. Altering torque with a gear train is one way to optimize the power of a water turbine. Gear trains are also crucial to the operation of a pendulum clock and a motor-powered crane.
Electricity: One thrilling project you will experience is a model rocket. No less fascinating is an electric launch controller to ignite the engine. Since safety is paramount, you design a circuit with fail-safe features. Along the way, you learn about voltage, current, resistance, batteries, and how to solder. Then you launch!
The United States Military Academy at West Point, where Professor Ressler taught for 21 years before his retirement, is renowned for the rigor of its engineering programs. After immersing yourself in these 24 delightful and enlightening lessons, you’ll have no doubt that Dr. Ressler’s classes are not just rigorous, but beautifully clear and immensely enjoyable. Among his many talents is a showman’s timing, as he unforgettably demonstrates in the final lesson, a DIY engineer’s finale like no other.
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