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This content is taken from the UNSW Sydney's online course, Through Engineers' Eyes - Expanding the Vision: Engineering Mechanics by Experiment, Analysis and Design. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Robin Ford: Here’s how we structured this course. Each of its four weeks has an introduction to set the scene, experiments to introduce physical reality, analysis videos and tutorial problems to give you insight and help you learn skills, a guided design activity to provide engineering context, a review process to consolidate your learning, and look out especially for adapted tutorials. This innovation provides a personalised, guided approach to exploring aspects of engineering mechanics. The experiments are a special feature. We’ve included them because although engineers live with one foot in the theoretical world of engineering mechanics, their other foot is firmly in the world of physical reality, and you should be in that world too.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second You can do the experiments yourself using common household items such as rubber bands, paperclips, string and cardboard, even a toy vehicle. There are videos and downloadable instructions to guide you. We hope you’ll do at least some of the experiments. But if not, you can get what you need from watching the videos. The flow of the weekly activities tells a story. Week one sets the scene. Then you’ll learn about gravity. You will learn to calculate the weight of an object, which is a force, and to specify where it acts. That’s the centre of gravity. The second load is friction. That’s week two. Sometimes we want more friction, sometimes we want less.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds Here, you’ll learn the engineer’s basic model of dry friction and see applications. The third load is wind. That’s week three. Wind loading on buildings, lift and drag on wings and sails, wind resistance of vehicles. Engineers use the same basic equation for all of these. It is a beautiful equation. We’ll quote it, demonstrate it, and guide you as you use it to find the power requirements of a car. You can do most of this using statics. You only need dynamics when calculating power in week three. Then in week four we’ll point the way towards dynamics proper. We’ll demonstrate impulse momentum and briefly introduce acceleration.

Skip to 2 minutes and 33 seconds Also in week four you’ll review what you’ve learned by evaluating the design of the aerodynamic test rig we used in week three. And you will have the chance to tell us what you thought of this cause as a whole. So that will be it. By the end of this course, you’ll have to learned new skills and developed new understanding. This can change your outlook forever. It can give you engineers’ eyes.

The flow of the course

Watch this video to see how experiments, analysis and design will expand your knowledge of Engineering Mechanics and your ability to use it. It’s a fresh approach and we hope you’ll enjoy it.

We’ll introduce you to a wide range of forces (gravity, friction, wind), and new concepts (work, energy, power, momentum) so you can find unknown forces in stationary rigid objects in a wide range of situations, and determine power requirements for vehicles in steady motion.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Experiments Explore physical reality by doing experiments using common items (full instructions are provided), or just watch videos of them if you prefer.
  • Analysis Build your analytical skills by watching videos, doing exercises and (in some weeks) working through Adaptive on-line Tutorials.
  • Design Combine the understanding from experiments, and the predictions from analysis to produce a design that will do the job.
  • Quizzes Assess and consolidate your learning.
  • Review Highlight the skills you’ve learnt, and track your progress towards engineers’ eyes.
  • Discussions share ideas with your fellow learners.


If you want to find out more about a topic, here are things you can try.

Ask your fellow learners Post a question in the comments for each step. Your fellow learners are an excellent resource.

Consult the Glossary You will see a Glossary at the end of each week throughout this course.

Web search Conduct your own web-search using as key words the topics we have explored. That’s how I found the data for the retro tutorial 3.3.

Classic textbooks There are more textbooks on Engineering Mechanics than we can list here. Over the years we have used the following for Statics:

  • Engineering Mechanics: Statics 8th Edition by J. L. Meriam (Author), L. G. Kraige (Author), J. N. Bolton (Author)
  • Engineering Mechanics: Statics (13th Edition) 13th Edition by Russell C. Hibbeler (Author)
  • Vector Mechanics for Engineers: Statics and Dynamics, 11th Edition By Ferdinand Beer, E. Russell Johnston, Jr. David Mazurek, Phillip Cornwell and Brian Self

They are generally written in a formal style and are closely argued, which is good if you want to gain a formal, understanding, but can be intimidating to the uninitiated. They are easier to read if you already have some knowledge in the area - such as you will get from this course.

Similarly there are many textbooks on Mechanics of Materials - analysing stress and strain. One typical textbook is:

  • Mechanics of Materials (9th Edition) by Russell C. Hibbeler (Author)

For Fluid Mechanics the story is the same. There are many textbooks to choose from, as a web-search will reveal.

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This video is from the free online course:

Through Engineers' Eyes - Expanding the Vision: Engineering Mechanics by Experiment, Analysis and Design

UNSW Sydney