Everyday Engineering
Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life

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36 episodes in this series

Episode 1 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…
Episode 2 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,…
Episode 3 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…
Episode 4 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…
Episode 5 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…
Episode 6 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…
Episode 7 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…
Episode 8 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…
Episode 9 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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;…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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,…
Episode 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…
Episode 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,…
Episode 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…
Episode 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.…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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.…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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,…

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