Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life

Course No. 1116
Professor Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.
United States Military Academy, West Point
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229 Reviews
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Course No. 1116
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Discover the amazing feats of engineering in our every day world, such as a roof, plumbing, phone, roads, and more.
  • numbers Learn how raw water is treated to make it drinkable and about the incredible feats of engineering it takes to get that water to you.
  • numbers Explore the deep, dark world of tunnel engineering and the highly specialized methods used to build them.
  • numbers Examine the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 and see what it can teach us about the world of everyday engineering.

Course Overview

Look around you. Great masterpieces of engineering are everywhere. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning, you are putting centuries of scientific and mechanical ingenuity to use. So familiar are these structures, inventions, and services that they are all but invisible. Yet they are just as remarkable as great works such as the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, and the Panama Canal.

Consider for a moment the wonders of these marvels that have likely already played an important part in your day today:

  • Residential construction: Built with common materials and simple tools, the modern house is a technological system for living. It provides protection and comfort, access to life’s necessities, and a flexible space for work and recreation.

  • Telecommunications: Able to link you to any phone in the world, the traditional phone system is miraculous enough. Even more wondrous is the array of services available through new telecommunications technologies such as cellular networks.

  • Transportation: You can get there from here, thanks to automotive engineering, petroleum drilling and refining, satellite navigation, and a road system that is fast, safe, and goes almost everywhere.

  • Water and power: Your house would be dark and bleak without connections to infrastructure systems that supply fresh water, dispose of wastewater, and furnish a power source—electricity—that provides illumination and animates most of your household appliances.

All of us use these technologies, and knowing how they work empowers us in major ways. Anyone who owns a home or is in the market for one benefits enormously from understanding how it is constructed and how the roof, insulation, plumbing, wiring, heating, and cooling systems are integrated into the building. Anyone who’s buying a car or needs to get one fixed can rest easier knowing how spark plugs, transmissions, tires, and brakes do their jobs.

And because the development and use of everyday technologies—from solar cells to cell towers—are often strongly influenced by public policy, understanding everyday engineering helps us make more informed decisions about the kinds of policy initiatives we wish to support.

Plus, the achievements of everyday engineering are worth admiring for their own sake. They represent some of the most inspired thinking of our civilization, and by looking under the hood to see how these technologies operate, you learn about basic scientific principles that apply throughout the world.

For these reasons and more, Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life is an indispensable guide to the way things work in the world around you. Conducting this eye-opening tour is Professor Stephen Ressler of the United States Military Academy at West Point, an award-winning civil engineer and a nationally honored leader in engineering education.

In 36 half-hour lectures, richly illustrated with instructive physical models, computer animations, and graphics designed by Professor Ressler himself, you start by learning how a house is put together with all its subsystems. Then you move outside to trace the origin and route of water, power, and telecommunications networks. Finally, you hit the road to discover how automobiles function and how roads and highway bridges are engineered.

Along the way, Everyday Engineering investigates power plants, dams, aqueducts, railroads, communication satellites, home energy efficiency, simple machines around the house, recycling, and many other topics. No background in science or engineering is needed to follow this riveting presentation, which gives you deep insight into the underlying simplicity of the complex systems that enhance our lives.

See Familiar Things with New Eyes

As an example of how Professor Ressler can turn everyday devices into a fascinating lesson in creative problem solving, he devotes an entire lecture to the faucet, showing how the problem of delivering hot and cold water into a sink has elicited a host of solutions—some practical, others not. We are all familiar with automatic faucets in public restrooms that defeat our initial attempts to get them to work, or two-handled faucets that lack clues about which way to turn the knobs. You’ll be surprised by the subtlety of the problem and the wide array of approaches, which is typical for issues of user-centered design.

Other intriguing insights you’ll get from the course include:

  • The genius of building codes: Houses are such complex technological entities that you might think an engineer would be needed to design each one. But building codes effectively serve as a substitute for an engineer’s judgment, specifying construction methods at a high level of detail.

  • Gone with the wind: Compared to traditional masonry and timber-framed dwellings, modern light wood frame houses are so light and sturdy that it’s possible to imagine one being lifted from its foundation by the wind and transported intact far away—as happened in the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz!

  • Save money and go green: Professor Ressler has plenty of advice for enhancing the energy efficiency of your home. People in the market for a new home should know about the latest trend in efficiency: the net-zero-energy house. Thanks to passive-solar design and in-home renewable energy sources, it requires no net input of energy over the course of a year.

  • Talking torque: The key to understanding how power is transmitted from an engine to the wheels of a car is the concept of torque—the tendency of a force to cause rotation—which helps explain power, acceleration, speed, fuel economy, and why internal combustion vehicles require multiple gears.

A Field Guide to Everyday Technology

Professor Ressler notes that his approach to Everyday Engineering is inspired by a very familiar genre: “Many people, myself included, find great satisfaction in identifying stars in the night sky, in distinguishing a red-tailed hawk from a turkey vulture,” he says. “The technological world is certainly no less interesting, but lacks the guidebooks available to stargazers and birdwatchers. I hope this course will provide just such a resource by serving as a sort of field guide to everyday technology.”

With this outlook and the enlightening information in these lectures, you will be able to look at the world around you and decipher mysteries such as these:

  • The unassuming utility pole: Next time you’re stuck in traffic, savor the complexity of the common utility pole, which typically has three high-voltage power distribution feeders, three insulators, and a neutral wire; and might also carry transformers, circuit breakers, low-voltage distribution lines, and telecommunications cables.

  • Ballet of the bulldozers, scrapers, and dump trucks: Ever wonder why so many kinds of earthmoving machines are needed at a highway construction site? They’re following precisely choreographed instructions on a mass diagram, with each type of vehicle moving soil according to its optimum operating range.

  • The power outage puzzle: Sometimes electrical power goes out and then seconds later returns. What’s usually happening is that a specialized circuit breaker, called a recloser, has tripped in response to a short circuit, such as a tree falling on a power line. The device automatically restores power if the fault has cleared.

  • Mystery of the missing web page: Web pages can get stuck in the process of loading, while you stare at the spinning wait cursor on the screen. The problem is usually heavy Internet traffic, which exceeds the storage capacity of a router somewhere in the network. The overflow packets of information that comprise the web page are sometimes simply lost.

One of the pleasures of Everyday Engineering is the meticulous care that Dr. Ressler has taken in preparing over 150 working models that explain everything from an arch dam to the universal joint in a car’s drive shaft. He also delights in the unexpected: in the last lecture he switches gears by examining a famous case when technology failed during the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. Triggered by high electrical demand during a sweltering summer day, a short circuit due to overgrown trees, and a software bug that disabled a control room alarm system, the cascading series of breakdowns produced the worst-ever electric power blackout in North America.

This incident serves as a graduation exercise for the course. Having explored the workings of the electrical power grid in previous lectures, you’ll find that you understand the crisis in perfect detail. Indeed, you’ll be ready to apply your broad understanding of everyday engineering to any technological issue that crosses your path in the future.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 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 this lecture series you will learn to notice and understand these overlooked marvels. x
  • 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, which ensure that every new house is safe, constructible, and reasonably economical without involving an engineer in each design. x
  • 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 crucial function: bearing wall construction and heavy timber frame construction. Both have been used for thousands of years. x
  • 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 has been widely used in the U.S. for over a century. x
  • 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 five integrated layers of protection: shingles and cladding, drainage plane, insulation, vapor barrier, and drywall. x
  • 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 from homes and returned to a natural watercourse, without causing flooding along the way. x
  • 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 different designs for dams, and marvel at the Catskill Aqueduct that carries fresh water to New York City. x
  • 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 crucial technologies in this system: the flocculation chamber and the water tower. x
  • 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 you investigate are the S-shaped trap in a waste pipe and that most ingenious of plumbing fixtures: the toilet. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

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Your professor

Stephen Ressler

About Your Professor

Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.
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...
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Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 226.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting topics and very engaging professor! We enjoy the clarity of the presentations and the excellent graphics and models which explain the principles in the specific lectures. This professor is so enthusiastic, it's hard not to get carried away. We found ourselves going into the basement and utility closets to examine our own house and how it had been put together with the engineering concepts explained in the lectures. We bought the course during a sale.
Date published: 2020-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I know nothing of Engineering and thought it would be good for me to learn something totally out of my comfort level during this time when we have the time to pursue other interests.
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Covers Everything You May Need to Know The professor started building a house and everything that even remotely connects to a household. Not only construction but electrical supply, waste removal, energy production, auto design, road design, bridges, tunnels. A very thorough course I very much enjoyed.
Date published: 2020-05-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good, but not as good as "DIY Engineering" This is the fourth of Dr Ressler's courses I've watched, and they're all good. But compared to "DIY Engineering" and "Understanding Great Structures", which are outstanding, this one is 'only' good. This course is a essentially a survey of civil and environmental engineering, as it applies to residential premises. It deals with building codes and principles, power generation, water supply and treatment, and a range of other topics that should interest anybody who lives in a house. There's a low-ish level of theory, which I understand is intentional, and is probably appropriate in this kind of course. However, the amount of material covered meant that the coverage was a little superficial. Dr Ressler could do a whole course on house building (sign me up, when that happens), but it's too much to cover in two or three lectures. There's a little overlap with Great Structures and also with Greek and Roman Engineering -- particular in the explanations of water supply. However, there's no enough overlap to affect the value for money. I can't fault the course for doing what it sets out to do; and I think it succeeds pretty well on its own terms. No -- what spoils it just a little for me is the focus on the USA. It's kind-of hard to see how this could have been different, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't live in the USA. For example "light timber frame" construction is a North American phenomenon (Dr Ressler admits as much). The only LTF constructions you'll see in the UK are garden sheds ;) There's a similar US emphasis on most of the content, although in some cases the principles are sufficiently similar that it still makes sense. Waste-water runs downhill, for example, regardless of national building codes. But we don't even have "building codes" in the US sense. Dr Ressler is as enthusiastic, well-informed, and engaging here as in any of this courses, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to folks in North America.
Date published: 2020-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Review, March 2020 I learned a lot from this course. I also watched the series on the World's Greatest Structures taught by Professor Stephen Ressler and consider his classes to be top notch.
Date published: 2020-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Facinating! I love learning about how things work! Prof. Ressler strikes the perfect balance of explaining things without getting too esoteric. I am scientifically very curious, but not scientifically educated, and followed these very well. Prof. Ressler's enthusiam makes it really fun. I think it's my favorite course yet!
Date published: 2020-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Facinating Course Dr. Ressler is an extraordinary teacher and explains the topics very clearly, using models to illustrate his points. Something I love about this course is that it really helps me better understand and appreciate the technology and theory behind it of many aspects of our life that we take for granted. I have no engineering background but, nevertheless, understand and enjoy his lectures.
Date published: 2020-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly great! Well done, engaging and had me hooked the whole time. The professor managed to explain many of the complex things that we take for granted every day, in an understandable way. I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2020-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible course This course far exceeded my expectations. It is a wonderful overview of the engineering that surrounds us all. Professor Ressler is very knowledgeable and easy to understand. He explains everything at a layperson's level but doesn't talk down. His demonstrations and models drive home the essence of each topic. I highly recommend this course to everyone with a curiosity about the infrastructure in which we live and how engineering makes it all happen. Well done!
Date published: 2019-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course and presentation I am very glad I baught this course. It clearly explains the basics of the technology around us every day without overwelming math. It should be offered in high school or freshman year college.
Date published: 2019-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heros Some people have baseball, football or actor heros. My heros all teach "The Great Courses’” This course is no exception
Date published: 2019-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Have listened to or viewed many of the Great Courses. This one stands very high on my list. A talented teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge of everyday engineering, a truly outstanding use of graphics, and the whole lushly produced. I was amazed. Flawless. Five stars for the professor and the entire production team.
Date published: 2019-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Faulty Information Found / Critical Review It is with great respect for Professor Stephen Ressler and the TGC I write this review. The course still receives all five stars despite the Incorrect Information Found. The plethora of accurate everyday information far out weighs the common misconception found in chapter 26 The Internal Combustion Engine. Specifically the spark ignition system animation and description found at disc location 0:20:06. The animation shows that a spark occurs at the spark plug when the contact breaker closes or makes contact. This is false information. The spark actually occurs when the contact breaker opens or breaks the circuit. I understand that makes no sense and is not intuitive. What actually happens is as follows. The contact breaker closes energizing the primary winding in the coil. This creates a strong magnetic field within the coil and is maintained until the contact breaker opens de-energizing the primary coil. This causes the magnetic field within the coil to collapse and the resulting line of flux enters into the secondary winding creating a very high voltage sufficient enough to jump the spark plug gap. The amount of high voltage is determined in part by the number of turns on the secondary winding. Depending on application,10,000 - 50,000 volts is common. Modern ignition systems of today generally do not employ distributors, or contact breakers. These items have been replaced by computers and sensors. In some cases spark plug wires have been eliminated as well. However, in all cases of the spark ignition systems one or more high voltage ignition coils are used and function the same way as in the convention ignition system. The computer opens or breaks the circuit to the ignition coil primary winding instead of the contact breaker and a spark occurs at the spark plug. It is in the spirit of learning and teaching that I wrote this critical review, because I care about education deeply. I will not fault anyone for the misinformation, because when I first started out I thought the spark occurred when the contact breaker closed as well. With that said, not only would I recommend this course to everyone it would be a required course for all high school students across America. They should have an understanding of how things work they are surrounded by and use everyday. Special thanks to Professor Stephen Ressler and the TGC for the production of this course. Happy Learning Everyone.
Date published: 2019-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This course and the professor are both excellent! This course explains how things we use everyday work. I think everyone should experience this course taught be a wonderful professor.
Date published: 2019-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Masterpiece This is the course that other courses should measure against. Not only was the speaker well informed and interesting and well organized, but the quality and quantity of the visuals was over-the-top. Highly recommended
Date published: 2019-09-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Everyday Engineering I would be very happy to review this selection if I could get an intact download to view. The latest three downloads have arrived intact. This is very frustrating. Could you make arrangements for REdownloads?
Date published: 2019-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A TRIUMPH This is a great place to start the Ressler engineering series because of its everyday practicality and interest. One finds it adds to situational awareness because it is now impossible to ignore the ubiquitous engineering marvels around us. My son, who graduated from West Point where Ressler taught, once made the succinct comment: "We had really good teachers". Ressler's amazing computer and physical modeling made it easy to "get the point" and his balance on controversial issues was unerring. It's not a "how to", but a "why things are done a certain way" course. PRACTICALITY: Like many in my generation with large families, I've repaired or expanded many technologies on late nights and long weekends. This course makes it all much more fun. L29: I've replaced drum brakes, but never quite got the rational for disc brakes or when they were worth paying for. L17: HVAC, led me to rebalance my home's forced air system & lowered my bills last winter. A recent thermostat change back to earlier technology was reinforced. The perils of over-tight insulation [L19] and when NOT to use heat pumps [L36] reinforced prior construction guesses. With money getting tighter for many, understanding the principles of everyday engineering might help anyone avoid significant errors in purchase as well as repair. INFRASTRUCTURE: We see this everyday but understand so little. Each person will find his own favorite topics: cell phone communication engineering, highway/bridge/tunnel design, traffic engineering, railroads, waste management Goodness, I'm even staring at electric poles now, attempting to decipher what all they carry and why. What is wrong with our schools? Oh, I can spell "Chaucer" most days, but how could I possibly have had 24 years of formal education and never heard of George Washington Snow whose 1830's lightweight platform frame has supported every roof under which I resided? The sections on large-scale passive energy savings were enlightening. The uses/limitations of green energy were very well discussed though more extensive teaching seems like another course opportunity. Some of the many questions arising from this course include the "embedded energy" of producing solar cells in huge furnaces vs their projected energy efficiency and lifespan; the potential for weather pattern local climate-change by 1000 turbine wind farms (to replace a single coal plant) altering the wind patterns needed to cool big city heat blocks; the "embedded energy" of wind turbines that, as Ressler pointed out, must be backed up (usually by coal); the efficiency of wind turbine massive land use forcing higher concentrations of people onto bigger heat blocks, etc. Nuclear and coal is concentrated energy yet non-Mohave desert solar and non-mountain-top wind is land-grabbing. Everyday Engineering provided a balanced, non-technical start. Ressler's explanations would be much preferred over some committee's unchallengeable statements. PROS: I am really appreciative of the "making the course" ending of L36. It was great to see all the young energetic, hardworking TGC people who make these programs possible and to get snippets of the amazing amount of work Dr. Ressler has done for this course. CONS: Guidebook people! Much better than other courses, but PLEASE: L10: Instead of a picture of a man holding a lump of coal maybe the coal distribution map, coal grades, or alkanes chart? L13: Power loss equations? L14: interconnection networks of US/Canada map? L16: Isotherms? L18: heat flux equations? L 23: orbital equations? L 28: Torque equations? LOL: my guidebook is a mess with all of this important stuff scribbled in the margins.
Date published: 2019-07-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The title is accurate I learned a lot about all kinds of things, such as water management from dealing with rainfall to disposal of waterwaste. also how homes are built and why they're built that way. I have an electrical engineering degree, and I learned tons about "marvels of daily life."
Date published: 2019-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mysteries Revealed in the Everyday World Perhaps not magical mysteries exactly but Professor Ressler devotes as much time and effort (not to mention modeling) in this course devoted to everyday matters such as your house, as he does in his two prior ones that deal with “big name” marvels such as the Pantheon, Colosseum, or the great gothic Cathedral of Chartres. And for me this is the magic of this course—that something as seemingly simple as your own house has as much to be revealed in its structure and function as do many of the more spectacular structures and engines of the past (and present). After an introductory lecture, Dr. Ressler begins with a structure with which we are all familiar—the family home. He spends four lectures on this seemingly simple topic and this is not excessive. I particularly found lecture four (platform-framed housing construction) to be fascinating. He finishes this segment with a lecture on site design and storm runoff and this flows nicely to the next set of lectures on water distribution and waste disposal systems. And so much more: power both generation and distribution, communications systems (this goes from landline telephone service to satellites), the internal comubution engine (leading to autos and their constituent parts). This of course flows logically into traffic engineering and regular highway and railroad bridges. And this follows to tunnels and railroads. And a final two lectures on recycling and sustainability. And all along Professor Ressler strikes a fine balance between the need to actually use recourses and how to properly care for our use of them. Some reviewers have taken exception to his descriptions of certain things such as the cellular network. While I found a couple of areas less than complete, I consider the areas covered than are likely out of Dr. Ressler’s direct expertise to be broadly adequate, if not completely accurate, at least where I have some detailed knowledge. So no complaints. I do think that TGC editors missed an obvious error in the course material, were a pump in an oil field is misidentified as a drilling rig. But this is a very minor thing in 36 lectures. As always, Dr. Ressler’s delivery is easy to follow, measured and at the same time passionate about his topics. After taking three of his courses, I am still amazed at the amount of thought and effort he devotes to their construction and delivery. It shows.
Date published: 2019-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to understand This is my 3rd course by Stephen Ressler. I am watching this one with my wife and we are both enjoying it. He is a great instructor.
Date published: 2019-06-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Outstanding course content but . . . In most respects, this is a truly great course. Dr. Ressler knows a practically incredible amount about buildings and engineering, and no one could ask for a clearer communicator of that knowledge. The course is beautifully produced. (And all of these comments also apply to several other of Dr. Ressler’s courses that I have.) My big complaint about this course is the way it’s packaged. I’ve been buying courses from The Great Courses (previously known as The Teaching Company) for about 15 years and during that time it has made a number of improvements in the packaging of its products. But with this course (and probably many others in the past year or so) it has taken a big step backward. Previously, its courses on DVD were packed in cases that have a separate location for each disc, so that they can be kept from rubbing against and scratching one another. But the six DVDs in this course come in a case that puts them all on a single spindle. It was easy to get the first disc out without damaging it or the others, but inserting and removing subsequent discs without damaging them is practically impossible. I have a number of multi-DVD programs from other companies, and they all come in traditional cases in which each disc has its own holder. It looks like The Great Courses has taken a short-sighted cost-cutting measure in going backward instead of forward with the quality of its packaging. So, even though the content of this course is outstanding, anyone who buys it should be prepared for the substandard packaging it comes in.
Date published: 2019-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Models & Examples I have an engineering degree from Georgia Tech - not one of my professors were as engaging and dynamic as Dr. Ressler. I would have loved to have professors who engaged students and used real-world examples of how theory is applied.
Date published: 2019-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Understandable I had previoiusly taken his course on great structures and loved it. This one is every bit as good, maybe better. Wonderful descriptions of the intricacies of engineering a number of systems, without so much technical data that you get bogged down in it. His models, as in the other course, were very useful. Bravo!
Date published: 2019-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Practical Physics I love this course and will enjoy watching it over and over again! Physics textbooks are too theoretical. This course shows how physics is used in every day life. I am looking forward to more courses that explains how things work.
Date published: 2019-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow. A real winner Great content, instructor and production. Everyday stuff but fascinating insight. I would recommend for ANYONE with a curious mind.
Date published: 2019-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyday Engineering Excellent. Top notch professor and course material
Date published: 2019-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course, fun to watch I've seen all of Dr. Ressler's courses and they're all outstanding. This one does a great job of telling you enough to understand a wide range of technologies, without drilling so deep into the details as to completely mystify and frustrate you. As with his other courses, Dr. Ressler uses great, often personally made visual aids that keep things from ever getting boring. You don't have to be an engineer to enjoy this course, thanks to the superb lecturer.
Date published: 2019-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative for those who are interested in popular sciences.
Date published: 2019-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and so well taught! I wish I had taken a course like this years ago. It was completely informative and a good preparation for homeownership. As a former science teacher the careful attention to well designed models and clear, informative motion graphics was impressive. Important concepts were introduced carefully and sequentially making it possible to understand increasingly complicated engineering applications. One small observation related to yard waste. Yard waste converted to compost by municipalities is often used by homeowners and contractors for gardens and landscaping. My municipality typically runs out by the end of the gardening season. It is proving to be very "sustainable" practice.
Date published: 2019-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent primer This is an insightful and entertaining introduction into how society functions. I wish I would have watched this course many years ago!
Date published: 2019-02-17
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