Everyday Engineering Examples

Educators tend to describe engineering concepts in language and using examples that are unfamiliar to students starting out on their students.  Research has shown that present engineering principles in a context that is familiar students improves their understanding, helps recruitment and retention, and leads to higher ratings for professors.  To help educators use everyday or real-life examples when teaching undergraduate students a series of 5E lesson plans have been produced covering first year (UK) or freshman/sophomore (US) Dynamics, Fluids, Solids and Thermodynamics (see below).

I have written a number of posts on this topic, see for example ‘Bridging Cultures‘ on June 12th, 2013 and  ‘Disease of a modern age‘ on June 26th, 2013, or for more detail see: Patterson et al on ‘The effect of context on student engagement in engineering’  Euro. J. Engng. Education, 36(3):211-224, 2011.

I have been slowly writing posts with 5E lesson plans based on Everyday Engineering Examples.  You can use the categories button entitled ‘Everyday Engineering Examples’ to see these posts.  However, I have decided to publish all of the lesson plans that I have written or edited.  Below is the list of 5E lesson plans by subject for you to download.  There are more than 100 Everyday Engineering Examples embedded in the lesson plans, if this is not enough for you then see the ENGAGE website.


Kinematics of particles

D1. rectilinear & curvilinear motion: paper airplanes, raindrops, sneezing, dropped iPod

See post entitled ‘Kinematics leaves rubbish‘ on October 23rd, 2013

Kinetics of particles

D2. force & acceleration: hockey puck, dustpan & brush, car skidding

See post entitled ‘Sweeping Kinetics‘ on October 30th, 2013

D3. Work & energy: sling-shot, two-slice toaster, medieval longbow

D4. Impulse & momentum: tennis balls, kids on water slide

Systems of particles

D5. steady particle streams: desk fan, hairdryer, wind turbine

Kinematics of Rigid Bodies

D6. Angular velocity & acceleration: yoyo, bicycle pedalling

Plane motion of rigid bodies

D7. Forces & acceleration: bicycle braking, roly-poly, pizza cutting

D8. Work & energy: marbles, yoyo, broken-down car

D9:Impulse & momentum methods: basketball, skateboard, tennis top-spin

See post entitled ‘March madness‘ on March 12th, 2014

Three-dimensional rigid body motion

D10. Kinematics of rigid bodies in 3D: violin-playing robot, industrial robot, teeth cleaning

See post entitled ‘Smart machines‘ on February 26th, 2014

D11. Kinetics of rigid bodies in 3D: spinning top, bicycle stability, equinox precision

Mechanical vibrations

D12. free & forced vibrations: hula-hooping, ‘singing’ ruler, whip aerial, earthquake protection bearings

See post entitled ‘Flexible credit‘ on October 9th, 2013


Introductory concepts

F1. Fluids & their properties: blowing bubbles, detergent, floating paperclips, fried eggs

See post entitled ‘Reducing tension‘ on April 2nd, 2014

F2. Statics: apple bobbling, bath plug, escaping from submerged car

Fluids in motion

F3. Kinematics of fluid motion: cream in coffee, convertibles, air-con, bathroom ventilation

See post entitled ‘No coffee till Christmas‘ on November 6th, 2013

F4. Dynamics of fluid motion: floating ball, hurricanes, hand in slipstream, vacuum cleaner

Control volume analysis

F5. Momentum: lifting with balloons, washing cups, umbrellas in the wind

F6. Energy: forced air-heater, hand-dryer, cyclist’s food consumption


F7. Similitude & dimensional analysis: bath toys, vacuum cleaner, artery flow


F8. Viscous pipe flow: vacuum cleaner, water squirter, bicycle pump

F9. Flow over bodies: swim suits, heart surgery, pizza delivery

F10.Open channel flow: water slide, curb drain, drainage ditch

See post entitled ‘Floods: An Everyday Example‘ on February 19th, 2014

F11. Compressible flow: rampaging bull, flock of sheep, supersonic flight, factory explosion


F12. Turbomachines: toy planes, car water pump, airplane propellor design


Elementary stress systems

S1.Uniaxial stress & strain: iPod, suspension bridge, femur, cello

See post entitled ‘Teaching stress‘ posted on September 11th, 2013

S2. Control cable extension: derailleur gears, yacht rudder

S3. Pressure vessel stresses: bike pump

Statically indeterminate problems

S4. Compatibility & equilibrium: iPod, dinosaur


S5. Torsional stress & strain: bottle closures

Strain energy

S6. Energy conservation: slingshot, bungee jumper

S7. Helical springs: bicycle suspension, pogo stick

Beam bending

S8. Bending moments & shear force diagrams: skateboarder, unicyclist on plank

See post entitled ‘Stonemasons & skateboards‘ on September 18th, 2013

Method of superposition

s9. Eccentric loading: basketball goal

See post entitled ‘Slam dunk‘ on March 26th, 2014

S10. Thermal loading: rail tracks, jewellery pendant

Two-dimensional stress systems

S11. Mohr’s stress circle: sausages

See post entitled ‘Sizzling Sausages‘ posted on July 3rd, 2013

S12. Combined bending & torsion: wind-up clock, motor


First law concepts

T1. System properties & substances: coffee-maker, exploding soup

T2. First law of thermodynamics: chips/crisps, classroom air-con, photosynthesis, iPod

Second law concepts

T3. Second law of thermodynamics: large fan, cup of tea, geothermal heat engine

T4. Entropy: balloons, turbines, milky coffee

T5. Exergy: candy, death, air-powered cars, ‘destructive’ walls

Power cycles

T6. Vapour power cycles: water pistol, kettle, power plant

T7. Gas power cycles: spark ignition engine, diesel engine, gas turbine

Thermodynamic applications

T8. Refrigeration & heat pumps: office refrigerator, drinks cooler, dorm air-con & heating

T9. Non-reacting mixtures: fire extinguisher, landfill gas, desalination

T10. Psychrometric applications: water bottle, misted glasses & windshield, cooling towers

Thermodynamics of chemical transformations

T11. Combustion & reacting mixtures: birthday candles, cooking pasta, engine heat losses

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15 thoughts on “Everyday Engineering Examples

  1. Pingback: 100 Everyday Engineering Examples | Realize Engineering

  2. Daniel

    Wow – this is a very broad and amazingly interesting list of application examples.
    I stumbled upon the page by accident and may possibly find it helpful in the future – so this is a small thank you post for the amazing list of examples.

    Greetings, Daniel

  3. Martin Knecht

    In lesson plan D1, page 3 you calculate the speed of a raindrop hitting the ground in the absence of air resistance. In the calculation you fail to take a square root resulting in a speed of 3590 m/s. The correct result should be 60 m/s.

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