From Wood to Steel
Properties of Materials

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The Rise of Iron- and Steel-Framed Buildings
How did iron and steel revolutionize building design? Find out in this trip back to late 18th- and early 19th-century Europe and America, where iron-framed structures: such as sheds at England's Chatham Dockyard, New York City's Equitable Life Insurance Building, and Chicago's First Leiter Building: would set the stage for…
Amazing Thin Shells: Strength from Curvature
Thin shells are unique structural elements that use curvature: cylindrical, dome-like, or saddle-like: to attain strength and stiffness. See these three types of thin shells used creatively in buildings ranging from St. Paul's Cathedral in London to the Zeiss planetarium in Germany to the Trans World Flight Center at New…
The Science of Structure - Forces in Balance
Explore how two types of external forces: loads (forces applied to structures) and reactions (forces developed at supports, in response to applied loads): act on structures such as Kansas City's Chouteau Bridge. Also, learn how these forces are related to the most important concept in engineering mechanics: equilibrium.
Internal Forces, Stress, and Strength
Use the Simple Tension Test (pulling on a structural element until it reaches the breaking point) as a gateway to understanding the concepts of internal force, stress, and strength. Then, see these concepts at work in structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Athens' Olympic Velodrome.
Building Up: Columns and Buckling
One of the most potent human aspirations supported by engineering is to build up. Learn how this has been done from antiquity to the present with columns: structural members that carry load primarily in compression. You'll also learn about buckling: the often catastrophic stability failure that occurs in columns with…
Building Across: Beams and Bending
Beams, combining tension and compression, are central to the second aspiration supported by engineering: building across long distances. As you survey beams from the primitive lintel over the Lion Gate at Mycenae to Norway's Raftsundet Bridge, you'll investigate scientific developments and transform your understanding of what makes this structural element…
Trusses: The Power of the Triangle
Trusses, the subject of this fascinating episode, are rigid frameworks composed of structural members connected at joints and arranged into networks of triangles. Learn how they work to stabilize and support a range of structural wonders, including the Brooklyn Bridge and: most famously: the Eiffel Tower.
Cables and Arches: The Power of the Parabola
In this episode, Professor Ressler introduces you to two final structural elements: cables and arches. The Saint Louis Gateway Arch and the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge are just two examples of breathtaking structural features that also have extensive, occasionally surprising, parallels.
Loads and Structural Systems
Structures are heavily influenced by the loads they're designed to carry. First, take a closer look at the most important loads structures must resist, including traffic loads and earthquake loads. Then, using the historic iron building at Watervliet Arsenal in New York, analyze how loads are actually transmitted through structural…
How Iron and Science Transformed Arch Bridges
Examine the development of arched bridges during and after the Industrial Revolution. See how the revolutionary Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale paved the way for the development of science-based engineering. Also, see how science contributed to increasingly sophisticated modern bridges such as Spain's Campo Volantin Bridge.
Suspension Bridges: The Battle of the Cable
After learning the science behind suspension bridges, begin your two-episode look at these structural marvels. Here, relive the Battle of the Cable, in which 19th-century engineers struggled over whether to build suspension cables from iron chains (as in England's Menai Strait Bridge) or steel wire (as in the Brooklyn Bridge).
Suspension Bridges: The Challenge of Wind
In July 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge dramatically collapsed in a steady 42-mph wind. In this concluding episode on suspension bridges, focus on how the Brooklyn Bridge, the Severn Bridge, and other bridges were designed to combat the second great challenge of these record-breaking bridges: their vulnerability to wind-induced vibrations.