Engineering Successes and Failures (05:56)
Failures in engineering, such as the "Challenger disaster, provide engineers with as much information as do engineering successes. As evidenced in history as well as today, engineering is an evolution of trial and error, successes and failures.
Engineering Structural Analysis (04:01)
The analysis of engineering ideas conceptualized on paper makes use of scientific principles and intricate mathematical equations. Engineers must understand the behavior of each constituent part of a complex structural project. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is an example of engineering failure.
Kansas City Skywalk Disaster (04:17)
In 1981, two skywalks weighing over 70 tons collapse in a hotel, killing 175 people and injuring hundreds of others. The cause of the disaster is a relatively simple engineering design flaw. The challenge to engineering is to anticipate the fatal detail and correct it in the design stage.
Engineering Models (04:09)
In his Britannia railway bridge design for the Menai Strait, Stevenson had to accommodate the tall ships of the day by building a very high bridge. Engineering models help uncover design flaws before the project is executed.
Variability of Structural Components (05:10)
Identical looking objects such as bolts may have variability in strength or resistance to fatigue. This failure mode is a particularly sticky problem in airplanes, which undergo repetitive forces on taking off and landing.
Engineering Factors of Safety (06:24)
Careful experiments are conducted with modern testing equipment to better understand the reliability of theories and the strength and variability of materials. Unlike the Kansas City skywalks, the London Bridge and Crystal Palace were tested for safety ahead of time.
Successful Innovative Engineering Designs (03:52)
In addition to the London Bridge and Crystal Palace, the world's first iron bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Taj Mahal, and thousands of other structures continue to stand the test of time.
Design Maintenance (02:46)
Structures also require maintenance to keep them functioning. In a never-ending task, bridges are painted to protect them from sea air. Maintenance shortcuts result in the death of hundreds of people when an engine falls off a DC-10.
Suspension Bridges (06:13)
The history of suspension bridges illustrates the cycle of engineering failures and success. Engineers learn from bridge failures and build better bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, known as Galloping Gertie, exemplifies the unsafe "over design" of bridges.
Computer-Aided Catastrophes (05:05)
Are computers good predictors of engineering failures? Computers did not anticipate the impending destruction of the Hartford Civic Center in 1978, nor did engineers who relied too heavily on computer calculations.
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