The Course: What is Engineering?


JHU students

This website is no longer tied to a particular course offering or instructor. However, it continues to contain most resources associated with the course.






The materials presented here represent and support the Johns Hopkins University course "What is Engineering?" Most labs, projects, questions/problems, and references which pertain to the course are included as .doc and .xls files. Additional information such as sample exams, student learn sheets, Powerpoints, lectures,and miscellaneous class material are also accessible. You can click through the materials beginning HERE

Readable References

Required: (choose one)

  • Ferguson, Eugene, Engineering and the Mind's Eye, MIT Press, paperback, $12.95.

  • Friedman, Thomas, The World is Flat, Picador, paperback, $16.00.

  • Brown, Lester, World on the Edge, W.W. Norton, paperback, $16.00.


Other books of interest:

  • Ashby, Michael F. and David R H Jones, Engineering Materials 1, Butterworth-Heinemann, paperback.

  • Brand, Stewart, The Media Lab, Penguin Books, paperback, $15.95.

  • Drexler, K. Eric, Engines of Creation, Anchor Books, paperback, $12.95.

  • Gordon, J.E., The New Science of Strong Materials, Princeton, paperback, $14.95.

  • Salvadori, Mario, Why Buildings Stand Up, W.W. Norton, paperback, $10.95.

  • Petroski, Henry, Invention by Design, Harvard Press, $24.95.

  • Florman, Samuel, The Civilized Engineer, St. Martin's Press, paperback, $10.95.

  • Bucciarelli, Louis, Designing Engineers, MIT Press, paperback, $12.50.

  • Van der Ryn, Sim, The Toilet Papers, Ecological Design Press, paperback, $10.95

Special Projects

    • A spaghetti project with competitive testing (TBA)
    • Writing projects
      • evaluation of Ferguson's Engineering and the Mind's Eye or Friedman's The World is Flat or Brown's World on the Edge
      • a mini research paper on emerging technology
    • Oral project
      • design and presentation of a solution to a specific engineering problem

Veritable Laboratory

Listed below are the non-virtual laboratory projects for this course. Complete descriptions of the assignments are listed as indicated above. However, demonstrations of laboratory techniques and equipment use are available here.

  1. Materials--determine the tensile and bending strength of spaghetti; determine Young's modulus. Demonstration: mixing epoxy (18Mb).

  2. Mousetrap design--design a mousetrap from paper, rubber bands, and glue.

  3. Multiparameter decision-making.

  4. Remote measurement--find the distance between two buildings; estimate the measurement error.

  5. Mousetrap construction--construct a paper mousetrap from a set of instructions.

  6. Circuit building--assemble a robot-control circuit using TTL logic chips and a breadboard. Chip and circuit board description.

  7. Chemical processes--carry out distillation and paper chromatography experiments. Observe gravitational instability in layered liquids. Demonstrations: using a hydrometer, creating a stratified fluid.

Miscellaneous Articles and Facts