Robin Ford

Robin Ford

I am a retired Associate Professor from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing, UNSW Australia and hold several teaching awards. I like to look for new ways of presenting Engineering Mechanics.

Location I live in Sydney Australia.


  • Robin Ford made a comment

    For fun - and to educate a dentist who is interested in electric cars - I have been analysing a model radio controlled electric car: a Tamiya Grasshopper.

    It's notionally 1/10 scale, and so far we've got it just over 21 km/h.

    The Grasshopper isn't the car that the dentist wants, but...

  • They all go together - engineering mechanics, mechanics of materials, materials science, fluid mechanics and more. Design is what holds it together as I see it. The divisions into these separate 'disciplines' is artificial, but nevertheless in its way, useful. The whole field of engineering would be overwhelming if you tried to grasp it in a lump.


  • There is a "part 2", it's called "Through engineers' eyes: expanding the vision" It starts on 12 Nov.

  • I too thought so for a long time, so I thougt I'd share the revelation with you!

  • It does. 1440 rpm betrays my history: 30 years in England followed by the rest in Australia (give or take a year and a half in the USA). I take it that the nominal speed in the USA will be 1440*(60/50) - where 60 and 50 Hz are the frequencies of AC grids in USA and UK/Europe respectively.

  • It's good to get responses - specially when they are positive!

    In the case that "too much engineering mechanics is barely enough", you might like to continue with the companion course:

    "Through Engineers' Eyes: Expanding The Vision".

    It starts 12 Nov 2018.

    There are some very quick and easy, yet instructive, experiments on centre of gravity and...

  • There is a follow-on course "Through Engineers' Eyes: expanding the vision. It explores three applications of statics (centres of gravity, friction, wind loads and rolling resistance; then makes a start on work/energy, collisions and projectile motion. It starts two weeks after this one finishes - 12 November 2018.

  • Yes. This week completes the basic tool kit for engineering statics. It is simple once you get it, but it can be mysterious until you do. It took Newton and a whole lot of other people to work it out.

    For a while I tried to find who devised the FBD, but its origins are lost in the mists of time.

  • I would normally use something like the notation that you are familiar with. For some reason I chose this different notation when working on this problem. It does demonstrate that you can choose from a wide range of notations - provided that you make it clear. Maybe I could have made it clearer.

  • There are two features for each item: direction of rotation and direction of torque. The direction of the torque on the input shaft is the same as the direction of rotation of the input shaft. On the other hand, the direction of the torque on the output shaft is opposite to the direction of rotation of the output shaft.

    Does that help?

  • There's a little movie on the padlet wall.

  • I just cut away some of the structure of a broken balance. I'll post photos and explanations on the Padlet wall.

  • I came across one over the weekend. I replaced two 'spring balances' that are used in lifting windows to balance out the weight of the window. You have to pretension them by twisting them. They specified 6 turns.

  • The job of a propeller is to convert torque from the motor to a thrust that drives the boat along.

  • Not really. I wanted a speed and this one came to mind, no doubt because of its practical links. Thank you for your question. Next time I'll explain it so that the learners are let into the the story.

  • Maybe that is cryptic. Sometimes when I'm drawing an FBD I overlook a connection with the body's surroundings, which means that although I had intended to isolate the body completely there was still a connection with the outside world, which could introduce errors.

  • 1440 rpm is the commonly stated speed for a 4-pole induction motor running off a 50Hz supply

  • @KeithMcGraw Yes, it is a universal test m/c, and maintaining calibration is vital. There's a wide range of kit in the labs. I'll see if I can get a listing - just out of interest.

    Whenever the topic of strange units arose, my first boss (who was from a farming family) would always tell us the irrigator's unit of acre-feet per day.

  • Not my field, but I have a colleague who might be able to shine some light on this. He's been away; I'll see when I can contact him.

  • I see your thinking. It is complicated by the unknown length of string used to suspend the rubber band transducer from the beam. The dimensions AB and CB are supplied so you can calculate the angles. The forces in the transducers are intended to be taken as given.

  • Can you please let me know where you found mention of the lengths 272 mm and 228 mm.

  • The bridge is probably the Tacoma Narrows bridge. It's a classic. There are many versions of it on youtube. I liked this one best.

    When we split the 7 week course to two 4 week courses, I decided to expand the time spent on twist. I didn't think of the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Instead I added power transmission...

  • Thank you, Justin. I'll get on to it.

  • It's an excellent question. Questions like this prompt deep learning. Free Body Diagrams help sort this out. The FBD isolates one body from another. Newton's third law requires that the 'action' on one body is equal and opposite to the 'reaction' on the the other body. That's when the body is isolated. When you 'reassemble' the system, that's when the action...

  • Although this answer might seem improbable, it is correct. I'll try to convince you. Consider the springs one at a time. Assume there is no pre-tension in the springs when they are unloaded (this doesn't affect the conclusions). Then when you load the point where they join, one is a tension spring and one is a compression spring. The tension spring pulls back...

  • Good to see all that activity. The padlet wall shows how i made a spring from an aluminium can. It was fun.

  • I've posted the image.

  • I found a page from Brunel's sketchbook in "Brunel and his world", John Pudney, Thames and Hudson, 1974. I'll try posting it on Padlet. There are several mentions of his sketchbooks in "Isembard, Kingdom Brunel", LTC Rolt, Longmans, 1964. For example, "...Brunel's sketch and notebooks do reveal very clearly the mind of the engineer at work...Amidst drawings...

  • Back in the day, we used different units for different kinds of power; mechanical power was horsepower, electrical power was Watts, heating power was British Thermal Units per hour; food power was Calories per day. Some non-standard terms still survive in general usage, for example although my gas bill charges in Joules (a Joule is a Watt-second), my...

  • I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    I've been wondering about workload. A video-game designer tells me that they might aim for 20 hours to complete, over 4 weeks. The net supplied interesting material. This quote for example "According to The Entertainment Software Association, the average game buyer is 34 years old and has been gaming for 12 years. At that age, they...

  • If you told Ahel-A'azm 50 years ago that by now they would have a hand held device that would be a video phone, a camera, a calculator and connect them to much of the knowledge in the world you would have received a blank look. On the other hand they would still recognise the general layout of cars and planes.

    Good luck with your project to go home. I hope...

  • I'll see what I can do for next time. I assume the same will apply to some other sections. Maybe I can add extra guidance/explanation in a supplementary document.

  • I agree that positive objectives are best. I try to change from negative to positive each time we revise the course. Somehow those ideologically less sound negative ones seem easier to dream up. I'll keep trying.

  • This got me thinking. It took a while but I finally got it.
    I looked at it rather differently. If it is on the point of tipping, A=0 and N=mg. If N=mg then -a/(Us*h-2a) must equal 1, dividing top and bottom by a I got -(Us*h/a-2) =1, and with h/A=.9/.3 this gives -Us*3+2=1 or Us=1/3. If Us is less than I it will slide if it is more it will tip; now 0.35 is...

  • That's great! I like the idea of a larger aircraft with thicker wings. Well done.

  • Thank you for the feedback. We'll look at it when we review this run of the course.

  • Thank you for your comprehensive note.

  • It's a long job devising talking points. We update some of them each time. Thank you for encouraging us to keep at it.

  • Well done for getting this far. And thank you for your contributions; I'll miss them.

  • The main thing is to keep the cardboard horizontal, otherwise the horizontal distances from suspension to centre of gravity get corrupted.

  • That's an interesting and important point. As long as you keep track of things it doesn't matter where you take moments (provided you always use the same axis). As you got the right answer, I assume that you DID keep track of it. When finding the balance mass for the glider, there's (at least) one effective axis to use - see my solution (perhaps after you've...

  • It might make more sense when you can see how it's used in dynamics.

  • I'll see what is possible.

  • It depends on what you are looking for. In this case it helped me to assess the situation. But if it doesn't help you then I;d leave it out.

  • This might be called 'ill conditioned'; to get the horizontal comp you are subtracting one fairly large number from another, so the result can change quite a lot with small differences in the two subtracted numbers. This situation can occur quite frequently in eng calcs.

  • Yes. The weight of the strut is included when finding the pin force in part 1, but has been left off in part 2 by error. We'll fix it. Thank you for pointing it out.

  • This has come about because I rounded things off differently in the two locations. I'll check the FBD in the video.

  • That's a common use of torque. In SI it's Newton Metres of course. It's the twist at the output shaft.

  • I explained this earlier I think but it has disappeared. % error is usually found by dividing the error by the true value and multiplying by a hundred. This works fine for the vertical force, but for the horizontal force the true value is zero so you can't divide by it usefully. So I divided by the vertical force to give some idea of the scale of the error in...

  • This opens up a long-standing debate on the usefulness of the concept of inertia forces, of which 'centrifugal force' is one. Some say that they are pernicious and should be shunned; others find them a useful concept, particularly with dynamics of rigid bodies. I was once a true believer in the 'centrifugal force is a pernicious' camp (following Meriam and...

  • For each question the arrows represent the additional load mentioned in the description. What caused the loads is not specified. Although the cause doesn't affect the FBDs I can see that it would add an extra note of realism if the cause were indicated. Something for when we update the new course.

  • It's some time ago that I did the experiments. I may have used a different 'force transducer'.

  • L and W are two forces - the lift and the weight of the balloon. I have put the tail of each arrow roughly in the centre of the balloon; perhaps it would have helped if I had put a mark so that it's clear there are two arrows.
    In the next diagram I have put the head of the WT arrow roughly in the centre of the box; it represents the weight of the basket. T is...

  • If the wheels are not braked the wheels are 'rollers' and the forces are at right angles to the surface. When a wheel is braked there is a component along the surface, but only on the braked wheel.

  • Point taken about the 'new way'. What was new to me was the freedom that the MOOC concept gave me for following a storyline rather than a syllabus. I could go where my instinct led me, and this lightened my spirit and (I hope) kept the presentation fresh.

  • Thank you for finding the typo. I'll get it corrected.
    The definition of transducer was from my head. Now that you have raised the issue I just checked out various sources.
    On the web I found:
    + a device that converts variations in a physical quantity, such as pressure or brightness, into an electrical signal, or vice versa.
    + a device that converts one...

  • I see what you mean. A four-function one would do, but why not get some practice in on the scientific calculator so you are ready for week 2?

  • That's a good idea. I think I had something like it in the course development in an early version, but somehow it seems to have ended up on the cutting room floor,

  • I've noticed recently that the word 'curator' has become fashionable - as in someone 'curating' an art exhibition for example. A curator selects items to display that demonstrate the development of a particular artist's work or develop a theme. I think that's what we have done here. As curators we have chosen our own guided tour through engineering mechanics -...

  • The meanings of sine, cosine and tangent are all you need for this course. And I find that learning these sorts of things are easier if you have an application in mind.

  • It's an instructive - and scary - story.

  • My view is that either the head or tail is placed where the force acts.

  • I'll be interested in your impressions later on. Have you looked at later weeks? Engineering mechanics is based on physics of course, but adopted and adapted by engineers. The concepts that we cover are met in university level courses, as a glance at the classic textbooks used in universities will show, but we hope to do It in a way that works for people with...