Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life

Explore the workings of the fascinating buildings, devices, and public utilities that we use almost every minute of the day, in this course taught by an award-winning professor.
Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 248.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Third outstanding course taken with Dr. Ressler. Professor Ressler makes power generation/transmission, the combustion engine, water sources/wastewater treatment, house construction, bridges, and many other items we encounter on a daily basis understandable/enjoyable to the non-engineer. His wonderful models, illustrations and enthusiasm help in learning how ordinary things really operate.
Date published: 2021-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course! This course does a very good job of explaining how things that we experience in our daily lives are designed and work. Dr. Ressler has a teaching style that makes things easy to understand and he is excited about this course topic (and the other topics that he has made courses for too!). I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning about these lecture topics.
Date published: 2021-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everything is Connected Dr. Stephen Ressler has done it again, producing a third excellent engineering course that non-engineering viewers can enjoy, even if they cannot always follow the mathematics. The scope is rather narrower than the title implies, since it leaves out many of the tools, machines, and toys that we use daily. Instead, roughly two-thirds of the lectures cluster around your single-family house—if you have one--and the grand infrastructure needed to support your life there. Most of the rest deal with your automobile and the roads it travels on. There are three ways to view the course. First, it is a story of the forces that engineers reckon with and the technical solutions they have developed to contain or exploit them. Gravity, wind and snow loads bear down on houses from above or from the sides while tension, compression and torque loads threaten to distort steel beams and bridges. Heat must be moved around to warm or chill homes and food, but on command it also turns water into steam that turns wheels and shafts to generate electricity. Electricity not only powers your home appliances; it also sparks explosions in your car engine that cause pistons to move down and up, turning the crankshaft that makes the wheels go around on the road to move the car forward or backward. While most of the technology here is no older than the mid-nineteenth century, Lecture 24 reminds us that with seven simple machines the ancients knew how to exploit distance to offset gravity or friction. These devices--the inclined plane, the screw, the wedge, the lever, the wheel, the axle, and the pulley--still ease our home lives today. Finally, human dexterity and behavior are important forces too. Lecture 25 demonstrates how engineers have tried and often failed to cope with humans’ need for simple hot- and cold-water faucets. Second, our engineered lives are at the end of long and complicated systems that proceed far out of view. When you turn on a light bulb, it draws electricity from a wall socket connected to a wire on a utility pole outside. That wire brings electricity to your neighborhood from a local substation that receives it from a power plant many miles from your home. At several stages, transformers step up the current voltage for long-range transmission and then step it down again by the time it reaches your bulb. The power plant is not the starting point either; the steam it uses to generate electricity comes from heat produced by the burning of coal, oil or gas or by uranium fission, so someone else must dig up those fuels and bring them to the plant. When you flush your toilet, the contents flow away with the contaminated water through pipes that ultimately lead to a sewage treatment plant, which applies sedimentation, skimming and reusable bacteria to filter out or neutralize the contaminants and then pump clean water back into nearby stream. When you set out your orange rinds in a trash can for the municipal garbage truck to pick up, those rinds will find their way into a dump truck that deposits them into a landfill—a hole specially lined with compacted clay, a geomembrane, gravel, and a geotextile to keep water or soil from trickling in and toxins from leaking out. The rinds will remain there, world without end. Third, our lives are tightly connected to each other and utterly dependent on vast external networks of metal, plastic, electricity, and electronic signals that make absurd our American ideal of “rugged individualism.” When the power failed in northern Ohio, Michigan, New York and Ontario on August 14, 2003, for three or four days there was no light after sundown, drivers could not fill their gas tanks, meat rotted in dark and silent refrigerators, cell phones did not work, sleep was difficult in the heat and the authorities told everyone to boil their water…without electricity. I remember because I lived in Michigan at the time. There was another reminder early this year when an unexpected cold spell shut down power for several days in Texas, whose politicians keep the grid separate from both national networks merely to duck federal regulations. There are a lot of great things about this course. Almost all lectures feature Ressler’s enjoyable tabletop demonstrations of basic engineering principles as well as photographs, illustrations, videos, or animations. Furthermore, it can improve the viewer’s understanding of how houses are built and how they work, very useful to anyone who owns a home or is thinking about buying one. It will also help the viewer better understand the workings of infrastructure in all its forms. The guidebook is a cut above many others in Great Courses series because it has a glossary at the end of each chapter AND a complete glossary at the end of the book. Professor Ressler gives his lectures with wit and insight. In Lecture 32 he even begins and ends by reading from a poem praising a bridge. The course falls short only in a few tiny ways. Lecture 35 on solid waste disposal seems out of place and would have fit better coming right after Chapter 9 on water disposal and treatment. For some reason, Ressler’s discussion of recycling skips paper. It is surprising that he devotes Lecture 34 to railroads, but not to airplanes and airports, considering that most of us are much more likely to travel by air. There is also a cute typo on page 99 of the guidebook, where energy can be changed from one “fworm” into another. None of these points should stop a Great Courses fan from buying this course. I would suggest two further courses for Professor Ressler or someone with similar qualifications. One would be a more thorough treatment of automobile mechanics, perhaps with some explanation of the design process. Lectures 26 through 29 here are a beginning, but Ressler does not have time to go into most of a car’s subsystems. Another would be one on ergonomics—the discipline of designing objects with human users in mind. The faucets of Lecture 25 were a very good start, and I would like to see more.
Date published: 2021-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Excellent Professor This is the second course I have purchased with Dr. Ressler, Structures being the other one, and both have exceeded my expectations. I knew much about this subject prior to this course, but learned a surprising amount of new information on every lesson. My favorite parts were Highway and Traffic Engineering and The Railroad. Dr. Ressler has a nice approach that allows him to explain more complex engineering issues to a layperson. His models are fascinating. Very enjoyable course.
Date published: 2021-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! I wish I'd taken this course in high school, or college. Explains a lot about almost everything you encounter in the world today. Should be required for everyone in the education system!
Date published: 2021-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a Homeowner and Citizen's Essential! Every current or potential home owner should watch this course and learn. It will give you a fundamental understanding of the systems inside and outside of your home, and will be helpful in trouble shooting water, electric and structural problems, and to really know what "up to code" means. The instructor does an excellent job of explaining complicated subjects in a straightforward manner, using helpful models and conducting experiments to make a point. It is not 'dumbed down" in any way. Not only will you learn more about your house, you will see the engineered features of your neighborhood and watershed differently. You will gain a far greater appreciation of all that goes into having clean water come out of the tap and for living in first-world countries with massive electrical grids, petroleum distribution and the like. It will certainly inspire some folks to get more involved in watershed & natural resources management, and perhaps policy and decision-making. One of the best Great Courses I've taken, and I've taken a lot!
Date published: 2021-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great info for us without a technical background I developed a new respect for all of those involved in planning and building the many things that make our life comfortable, and need to understand the tradeoffs/impacts when we make personal and political decisions. Also Professor Ressler always presented diverse perspectives. He did not appear to be either a "global warming denier", nor a "greenie". A few of many more specific thoughts/learnings that this course raised to me: Since coal accounts for 40% of US electrical power production, It will be very challenging to reduce our production of greenhouse gases while significantly increasing our electricity consumption - e.g. electric powered cars? (I don't that there is an easy answer) While none of us love standards, he demonstrated the benefits. Everything from standard electric sockets to municipal zoning codes. Last but not least, we need to think of technology as an ecological system where everything impacts everything else, often in unexpected ways.
Date published: 2021-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind boogling Dr Ressler and his team managed the impossible, making me assist the whole 36 episodes of his course on engineering. And this is no small feat for an engineer phobic like me!
Date published: 2021-06-02
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Overview

Get a field guide to the engineering marvels of the everyday world all around you. Discover the remarkable technologies that enable our way of life-masterpieces of engineering that have been so beautifully integrated into the fabric of modern civilization that we often take them for granted. Explore the workings of the fascinating buildings, devices, and public utilities that we use almost every minute of the day.

About

Stephen Ressler
Stephen Ressler

In over two decades as a teacher, I've never experienced anything quite like commitment of The Great Courses to rigor in the course development process and uncompromising production quality in the studio.

INSTITUTION

United States Military Academy, West Point
Dr. Stephen Ressler is Professor Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). A registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, he earned a B.S. from West Point and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, as well as a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Professor Ressler's papers on engineering education have won seven Best Paper awards from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Professor Ressler has also won numerous awards from the ASCE, including the President's Medal and the 2011 Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award-the organization's highest award. His other accolades include the Bliss Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Engineering Education from the Society of American Military Engineers and the Norm Augustine Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communications from the American Association of Engineering Societies. Professor Ressler served for 34 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and retired at the rank of Brigadier General in 2013. While on active duty, he served in a variety of military engineering assignments around the world. He is also a developer and principal instructor for the Excellence in Civil Engineering Education Teaching Workshop, which has trained more than 500 civil engineering faculty members from more than 200 colleges and universities.

By This Professor

Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
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Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life
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Do-It-Yourself Engineering
853
Understanding Greek and Roman Technology
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Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life

Trailer

Engineering and Technology in Your World

01: Engineering and Technology in Your World

Start the course by considering how engineering and technology influence your daily life-not just high-tech devices but also ordinary machines, buildings, and infrastructure that most people take for granted. In this lecture series you will learn to notice and understand these overlooked marvels....

31 min
Your House as an Engineered System

02: Your House as an Engineered System

In the first of four lectures on your house as a technological system, review the eight engineered subsystems that go into modern dwellings. Then discover the miracle of building codes, which ensure that every new house is safe, constructible, and reasonably economical without involving an engineer in each design....

28 min
Three Structural Systems for Load Bearing

03: Three Structural Systems for Load Bearing

Examine one of the most important aspects of modern building codes: the design of a house for structural load carrying. Focus on two of the three major approaches to this crucial function: bearing wall construction and heavy timber frame construction. Both have been used for thousands of years....

33 min
Platform-Framed Housing Construction

04: Platform-Framed Housing Construction

Turn to the third major technique for building a house: platform-framed construction, which is a flexible arrangement of lightweight modular floor platforms, wall panels, and roof trusses. This efficient approach has been widely used in the U.S. for over a century....

35 min
The Building Envelope

05: The Building Envelope

Now that your house is framed, it needs a building envelope that can shed rainwater and melting snow, and also keep precipitation from entering through the foundation. Learn about the five integrated layers of protection: shingles and cladding, drainage plane, insulation, vapor barrier, and drywall....

29 min
Site Design and Storm Runoff

06: Site Design and Storm Runoff

What happens to the precipitation that falls on your house, your lot, and your neighbors' properties? Study the problem of site design, focusing on how storm runoff is directed away from homes and returned to a natural watercourse, without causing flooding along the way....

29 min
Dam, Reservoir, and Aqueduct Design

07: Dam, Reservoir, and Aqueduct Design

Now consider the water that you want in your house-for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Examine the technologies that collect water from a watershed and transport it to a municipality. Explore different designs for dams, and marvel at the Catskill Aqueduct that carries fresh water to New York City....

33 min
Water Treatment and Distribution

08: Water Treatment and Distribution

Learn how raw water from nature is treated to make it safe for drinking. Then trace the distribution system that supplies water under pressure to users. Professor Ressler demonstrates two crucial technologies in this system: the flocculation chamber and the water tower....

29 min
Wastewater Disposal and Treatment

09: Wastewater Disposal and Treatment

What happens to the 150 gallons of water that the average person uses and then sends down the drain each day? Delve into wastewater disposal and treatment. Among the details you investigate are the S-shaped trap in a waste pipe and that most ingenious of plumbing fixtures: the toilet....

30 min
Fossil Fuels: Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas

10: Fossil Fuels: Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas

Coal, oil, and natural gas power the vast majority of electrical generating plants in use today. Learn how fossil fuels are extracted from the earth and how new technologies such as longwall mining and fracking have revolutionized the industry. Also examine some of the environmental drawbacks of these endeavors....

30 min
Power Generation from Coal

11: Power Generation from Coal

Focus on the dominant source of electricity in the U.S. today: coal. Begin by reviewing concepts from thermodynamics that explain how power plants work. Then follow the processes that turn a hopper full of coal into abundant electrical power, extracting the maximum amount of energy along the way....

31 min
Oil, Gas, and Nuclear Power

12: Oil, Gas, and Nuclear Power

Probe the tradeoffs of oil, natural gas, and nuclear fission for generating electrical power. For example, natural gas is plentiful and flexible, but it involves fracking and produces carbon dioxide emissions. By contrast, nuclear power produces essentially zero emissions but poses potentially catastrophic safety risks....

30 min
Renewable Sources of Electricity

13: Renewable Sources of Electricity

Survey the three most important sources of renewable energy: hydropower, wind power, and solar power. Look at the inner workings of hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, solar-thermal power stations, and photovoltaic arrays to see how each takes a renewable energy source and converts it into electricity....

32 min
Electrical Power Transmission: The Grid

14: Electrical Power Transmission: The Grid

Study the technological marvel called the grid-the system that transmits electricity from its point of generation to users. Learn why electrical transmission lines come in threes, why AC power is used instead of DC, and the reason transmission voltages are so high....

34 min
Electrical Power Distribution

15: Electrical Power Distribution

Trace the distribution of electrical power from a substation to your home. Begin with the transformer, discovering how this crucial device functions. By the end of this lecture, you will be able to read a utility pole like a book, analyzing the different services attached to these ubiquitous structures....

30 min
Everyday Thermodynamics: Refrigeration

16: Everyday Thermodynamics: Refrigeration

Unravel the secret of refrigeration by focusing on the connection between heat, temperature, work, and energy. Then see how these thermodynamic concepts apply to the vapor-compression cycle in your refrigerator or air conditioner. Discover that a heat pump operates the same way....

31 min
Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning

17: Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning

Explore heating, ventilating, and air conditioning-known as HVAC. Begin by learning how thermostats regulate temperature. Then review how heat transfer takes place, and investigate the pros and cons of heating with a furnace, boiler, and heat pump. See how air conditioning integrates into each of these systems....

30 min
Home Energy Efficiency

18: Home Energy Efficiency

Delve into the green building movement, which promotes structures that use natural resources more efficiently while reducing environmental impact. Focus on minimizing energy consumption through a well-insulated, airtight building envelope; energy-efficient windows and doors; and energy-efficient HVAC systems and appliances....

33 min
Passive Solar and Net-Zero-Energy Homes

19: Passive Solar and Net-Zero-Energy Homes

How much energy can you save with a properly designed house? Would you believe all of it? Trace the trend in passive solar and net-zero-energy homes that are engineered to stay comfortable year-round by exploiting sunlight in winter and shielding against it in summer, with minimal operating costs....

32 min
The Plain Old Telephone Service

20: The Plain Old Telephone Service

Begin the first of four lectures on telecommunications technology by tracking the landline telephone system, known in the trade as "plain old telephone service." Follow the pair of copper wires from your landline phone to the multi-pair cables strung from power poles to the all-important local exchange and beyond....

30 min
The Global Telecommunications Network

21: The Global Telecommunications Network

Investigate the beauty and complexity of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Optimized for transmission of the human voice, it comprises a vast array of conventional phone lines, fiber-optic cables, microwave links, and other media. Trace its evolution to the remarkable system in use today....

31 min
Cellular Phone Technology

22: Cellular Phone Technology

Why is cell phone service sometimes so unpredictable? Get inside the cellular network to learn how clever engineering makes a surprisingly large number of two-way conversations possible over a very narrow broadcast spectrum. Also see how the system leads to dead spots, dropped calls, and other familiar cell phone hassles....

30 min
Satellites and Satellite Communications

23: Satellites and Satellite Communications

Take wireless communications to a higher level: space. First master the rudiments of rockets, orbits, and satellite operations. Then focus on commercial satellite services such as television, radio, Internet, telephone, and navigation. Calculate the ideal orbit for communications satellites, and investigate the workings of the Global Positioning System....

32 min
Simple Machines around the House

24: Simple Machines around the House

Nothing embodies everyday engineering like simple machines-the basic mechanical devices used for thousands of years that we rely on more than we may realize. Probe the wonders of the inclined plane, screw, wedge, lever, wheel-and-axle, and pulley, and ponder their myriad applications....

33 min
User-Centered Design

25: User-Centered Design

Using the faucet as an example, study the bewildering number of ways that hot and cold water can be delivered into a sink, reflecting the challenges of designing everyday things. Along the way, consider the principles that go into a successful design: affordances, signifiers, mapping, constraints, and feedback.

30 min
The Internal Combustion Engine

26: The Internal Combustion Engine

Begin the first of four lectures on automotive engineering by exploring that marvel of mechanical sophistication: the internal combustion engine. Professor Ressler uses homebuilt models to demonstrate the ingenious design of the four-stroke power cycle and how it works in perfect synchrony with a host of other engine sub-systems....

31 min
Torque, Power, and Transmission

27: Torque, Power, and Transmission

Trace the path of mechanical power from pistons to the engine crankshaft, then through the flywheel and clutch assembly to the transmission gearbox. Focus on the relationships between torque, rotational speed, and power, discovering the reason that transmissions require multiple gear ratios....

31 min
The Drivetrain

28: The Drivetrain

Follow the transfer of automotive power from the gearbox through the driveshaft to the differential and drive-wheels. Study working models of the universal joint and differential. Also explore the design of front-wheel drive, and peer inside an automatic transmission to expose the miracle of its smooth operation....

35 min
Suspension, Steering, and Braking

29: Suspension, Steering, and Braking

Conclude your survey of automotive engineering by studying the three systems that control a vehicle: suspension, steering, and braking. Begin with the technology that's vital to all three: your tires. Close by analyzing the antilock braking system (ABS), learning how it works and how it knows when to engage....

33 min
Highway Engineering

30: Highway Engineering

Step into the work boots of a highway engineer, tasked with designing a freeway across hilly terrain to connect two other highways. Discover that features of a safe road that you take for granted-constant-radius curves, gentle grade, sturdy construction, and a well-drained surface-require detailed planning....

31 min
Traffic Engineering

31: Traffic Engineering

Traffic engineers help to ensure the safe and efficient movement of vehicles and pedestrians within a road system. Focus on their approach to intersection design, examining the many factors that go into determining whether you're faced with a traffic signal, an overpass, a flyover ramp, or some other means of traffic control....

30 min
Everyday Bridges

32: Everyday Bridges

Find that everyday highway overpass bridges are more interesting than they appear. These ubiquitous structures deserve to be admired for their simplicity and practicality. Plunge into the principles of multi-girder spans, and learn that new construction techniques make highway bridges more efficient and elegant than ever....

35 min
Tunnel Engineering

33: Tunnel Engineering

Delve into tunnel engineering, a discipline every bit as impressive as bridge building, only less visible. Consider the challenges presented by the type of soil or rock being excavated for a tunnel, marvel at the work of mammoth tunnel boring machines, and weigh the tradeoffs between tunnels versus bridges....

30 min
The Railroad

34: The Railroad

Ride the rails to learn why rail transportation continues to thrive, two centuries after the modern railroad was introduced. Trace the origin of the standard rail gauge used in the U.S., probe the forces a locomotive must overcome to get rolling and then stop, and chart the rise of a revolutionary way of handling cargo: the intermodal container....

32 min
Solid Waste Disposal and Recycling

35: Solid Waste Disposal and Recycling

Compare the three main methods of dealing with the 700,000 tons of solid waste generated every day in the U.S.: landfill, incineration, and recycling. Explore the distinction between recycling, which is practical with many metals, and down-cycling, which is the fate of most plastics....

31 min
The Future: Engineering for Sustainability

36: The Future: Engineering for Sustainability

Look beyond recycling to the higher goal of sustainability. Then close the course by considering the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. Caused by inadequately pruned trees and a software bug, this cascading sequence of infrastructure failures holds important lessons for the world of everyday engineering....

36 min