Summer Reading: Engineering Stories (realistic fiction) in STEM

Engineering Stories ( realistic fiction) in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)

By Kenneth Richard Hardman

Kenneth R. Hardman publisher c 2013

Engineering PS509..E55 H33 2013                       Engineering stories realistic fiction.jpg2


Youth, Young Adults, and Educators, Come into my office, conference room, and laboratory – Experience my adventures, teams, challenges, thoughts, travels, and sudden insights. Engineering Stories are Realistic Fiction, short story dramatizations allowing the reader, through narration, description, dialogue, and thought to experience the adventure and satisfaction of being an engineer, or inventor.  Stories are very plausible, being fictionalized compositions of author experience. Herein, you are able to listen into the mind of an engineer, see how they think, observe how they might behave, understand what motivates them. The objective is to encourage students to consider or continue careers in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), show what it may be like, dispel a myth or two, and encourage creativity, problem solving, instilling the confidence to make the world a better place. Seven realistic stories are included in this volume. The focus is engineering product development which involves the activities of developing a product to satisfy the needs and desires of a customer. The customer could be a company, a work group, or an individual. The product could be a method of transportation, fabrication, spacecraft, or medical utility. These stories illustrate how customer needs are gathered, how product requirements are refined, and how creativity is used to determine good potential solutions to the product requirements. Examples are included showing the process by which options are evaluated, selected, designed, built, tested, and put to work for the customer. Like any good story, Engineering Stories show character development, how individuals work on their own and in teams to tackle challenges and build better products. Engineers travel, engineers learn, engineers struggle, engineers grow, and engineers feel joy in what they accomplish. Educators, This book can be used as supplemental material for the classroom. At the end of each story, mentor notes and exercises have been included to emphasize engineering ideas and encourage critical thinking, a very important engineering quality. The teacher is encouraged to assign this material to the student or use these questions for class discussion, and the student is encouraged to write responses to the questions. Finally, enjoy these stories. Encourage others to read them. If you can relate to these protagonists, these engineers, and find yourself improving upon what they have done, then you are probably an engineer, or should be.

Summer Reading: The Best American Science And Nature Writing 2012

The Best American Science 

And Nature Writing 2012


Edited by Dan Ariely

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company c2012

Engineering PN6071. S3 B46 2012


The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind.


From Booklist

There is so much we don’t know, which leads us to make so many irrational decisions that we need scientists and science writers to share their inquiries and discoveries in welcoming and lucid prose. Stellar examples of just this sort of cogent and compelling writing sustains this invaluable and exciting series. This year’s guest editor, Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics and author of The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty (2012), kicks things off with a provocative introductory essay about how we can and should use science to improve our lives. His commanding and eye-opening selections run the gamut from the micro (gut biota) to the macro (global air pollution) and steadily ramp up our sense of awe and concern. His engaging contributors write of food allergies (Jerome Groopman), the evolution of feathers (Carl Zimmer), the extraction of DNA from Neanderthal bones (Elizabeth Kolbert), and crowd disasters (John Seabrook). In the most intimate essay, Sy Montgomery describes her unexpectedly emotional encounters with Athena, a very smart and expressive giant Pacific octopus. How wondrous and complicated life is. –Donna Seaman

About the Author

Dan Ariely, author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational, is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University.









Summer Reading: It looked Good on Paper

It Looked Good On Paper (Book Cover)It Looked Good on Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies

Edited by Bill Fawcett
New York : Harper, c2009

Engineering TA174 .I83 2009

It Looked Good on Paper is a remarkable compendium of wild schemes, mad plans, crazy inventions, and truly glorious disasters. Every phenomenally bad idea seemed like a good idea to someone.  How else can you explain the Ford Edsel or the sword pistol—absolutely absurd creations that should have never made it off the drawing board? It Looked Good on Paper gathers together the most flawed plans, half-baked ideas, and downright ridiculous machines throughout history that some second-rate Einstein decided to foist on an unsuspecting populace with the best and most optimistic intentions. Some failed spectacularly. Others fizzled after great expense. One even crashed on Mars. But every one of them at one time must have looked good on paper, including:

  • The lead water pipes of Rome
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge—built to collapse
  • The Hubble telescope—the $2 billion scientific marvel that couldn’t see
  • The Spruce Goose—Howard Hughes’s airborne atrocity: big, expensive, slow, unstable, and made of wood
  • With more than thirty-five chapters full of incredibly insipid inventions, both infamous and obscure, It Looked Good on Paper is a mind-boggling, endlessly entertaining collection of fascinating failures.

Bill Fawcett is the author and editor of more than a dozen books, including You Did What?  It Seemed Like a Good Idea . . . How to Lose a Battle, and You Said What? He lives in Illinois.

Summer Reading You Might Enjoy! Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?

Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?Why don't jumbo jets flap their wings (Book Cover)
By David E. Alexander
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c2009

Engineering Library TL546.7 .A44 2009

Why don’t jumbo jets flap their wings? offers a fascinating explanation of how nature and human engineers each arrived at powered flight. What emerges is a highly readable account of two very different approaches to solving the same fundamental problems of moving through the air, including lift, thrust, turning, and landing. The book traces the evolutionary process of animal flight-in birds, bats, and insects-over millions of years and compares it to the directed efforts of human beings to create the aircraft over the course of a single century.

From Publishers Weekly:
This book is for everyone who’s ever wondered how something gets into the air, stays there and lands safely. A close look at the aerodynamics of wings introduces the basic concepts of lift, thrust, drag and weight, the basic forces that affect flight. While the principles don’t differ between animals and machines, design and purpose do. Bird and insect wings have evolved to provide lift and maneuverability, ward off predators and attract mates. Manmade flyers, on the other hand—even sailplanes—require a separate means of thrust to create lift. Alexander, who teaches biology at the University of Kansas and studies biomechanics, explains how birds and machines hover; how rotary plane and jet engines work; what keeps airplanes, with their rigid wings, stable in the air; and how various tools help pilots fly blind. Sections on flying predators and aerial combat, as well as human-powered flight, are especially interesting. Extensive references, a glossary and suggested reading should give even novices a good understanding of flight and how it works.


Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.  

Happy Earth Day!


Happy Earth Day!  Today, April 22, Earth Day celebrations are occurring throughout the United States as well as around the world.  This year’s theme, Green Cities, focuses on sustainable communities.  Denis Hayes was the first coordinator of Earth Day, an environmental “teach-in” held on April 22, 1970.  In the first Earth Day participants from two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.”  He founded the Earth Day Network in Washington, DC and expanded it to 192 countries.  Time Magazine named him “Hero of the planet” in 1999.  His mentor, former US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, originated the idea 44 years ago, in 1970, to promote and support responsible protection of our environment, the Earth. Gaylord Nelson hired Denis Hayes, a student attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to organize the first Earth Day. In 1995, Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work.

The first to propose an international day to honor the Earth was peace activist John McConnell. His vision, formed at a UNESCO conference on the environment in 1969, included a celebration to be held on the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere: March 21, McConnell’s proposal led to a proclamation signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations in 1971, initiating an annual Earth Day on April 22nd.  McConnell later founded the Earth Society in 1976 with anthropologist Margaret Mead.


April 22 Is Earth Day: What it Means, (2014) from

Brosnan, Kathleen A.  Encyclopedia of American Environmental History Volume II.  New York: Facts on File, Inc.  An imprint of Infobase Publishing, 2011.  Engineering Library Folio GE 150 .E53 2011 V.2

Earth Day Extravaganza Sheds Its Humble Roots (April 22, 1990) from

Earth Day History:  The History of Earth Day (2014) from

Gorman, Hugh S. The Story of N:  A Social History of the Nitrogen Cycle and the Challenge of Sustainability.  N.J.  : Rutgers University Press, 2013.  Engineering Library TD196.N55 G67 2013.

Khale, Lynn R, and Eda Gurel-Atay, editors.  Communicating Sustainability for the Green Economy. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2014.  Engineering Library HC79. E5.C61236 2014.

Taback, H.J. Environmental Ethics and Sustainability: A Casebook for Environmental Professionals. Florida, Boca Raton: CRC Press 2014. Engineering Library GE42. T33 2014.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (2014) from

Who Invented Earth Day? ( 2014)  from





April 15th is Eraser Day!


April 15th is National Rubber Eraser Day!

When  celebrating the invention of the eraser, the names and stories of several European scientists intertwine: Frenchman Charles Marie de la Condamine, Portuguese Jean Hyacinthe de Magellan, and Englishmen Edward Nairne and Joseph Priestley are collectively responsible for its discovery and use.

Condamine was sent to South America in 1735 by the French Academy of Science to calculate the diameter of the Earth at the equator.  In his travels through Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, he was fascinated by caoutchouc, a milky white elastic substance produced under the bark of a tropical tree.  He returned with samples in 1745.  By 1752, Jean Hyacinthe de Magellan, a Portuguese scientist who corresponded with internationally known scientists of his day, is thought to have been the person responsible for suggesting that caoutchouc be used as an eraser in the Proceedings of the French Academy.  Until that time, pieces of bread had been used to eliminate marks on paper. According to Inventors and Inventions, Sir John Priestly noted the erasing properties of vegetable gum:  “I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the mark of black pencil lead.” By 1778, Priestley suggested that caoutchouc be called “rubber” for its properties. A decade later, by 1790, the word “eraser” was in use and referred to the object used to remove pencil marks.

In 1839, American Charles Goodyear developed and patented a process to keep the rubber material from rotting.  The process, vulcanization which is named after the Roman god of fire, cured and stabilized the rubber.  Today, erasers are made from synthetic rubber or vinyl.  The engineering and production process involved can be seen in a short You Tube video by the Staedtler Corporation or in the article Eraser:  Raw Materials and Manufacturing Process are described in detail at a site called:



Hyacinthe Magellan (2014) retrieved from

Innovateus, Edward Nairne (2006-2013) retrieved from

Online Etymology Dictionary (2001-2014) retrieved from

Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, Charles Marie De La Condamine (1999)


Combination of Lead-pencil and eraser (US 19783A)

Leonardo da Vinci the Engineer

Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions

Come see the exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci: The Engineer at the Lichtenberger Engineering Library.  The exhibit includes models of some of his engineering feats:  a catapult and a multiple sling designed as war machines to hurl stones, a paddleboat and a great kite.  Stop by and see pictures of his underwater breathing machine, a steam cannon, a gigantic crossbow and the Vitruvian man.

Included in the exhibit case are facsimiles from the University’s Special Collections of da Vinci’s original manuscripts printed from the collection of the Institute de France.  Twelve manuscripts written between 1492 and 1516 were brought back to Italy by Francesco Melzi, his favorite pupil, after da Vinci’s death.  These facsimiles feature over five thousand pages of drawings and notes in his characteristic “mirror-image” hand-writing, running from right. The sections on display in the case are those related to:  the military art, optics, geometry, the flight of birds and hydraulics.


One of Da Vinci’s famous drawings is of the Vitruvian Man, a drawing created in 1490, is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius and Book III of his treatise De Architectura.  Vitruvius the architect described the human body with having ideal proportions.  The drawing, pen and ink on paper, depicts a male figure in a square within a circle.  The drawings sometimes referred to as the “Proportions of Man,” and named in honor of the architect Vitruvius, represent da Vinci’s blend of art and science.  Encyclopaedia Brittanica online states that da Vinci “believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe.”


Those of you interested in hydraulics may know about Enzo Macagno.  In 1960, Macagno became interested in studies of the history of fluid mechanics and the life of da Vinci.  Along with his colleague and late wife, Matilde, Macagno became an international expert on da Vinci, publishing numerous articles and IIHR monographs on the interpretation, analysis, and synthesis of da Vinci’s codices and manuscripts as they relate to fluid-flow and transport phenomena.  You will find more information in the exhibit case and two monographs from Special Collections on Macagno’s work.

This is just a sampling of what can be seen at the Lichtenberger Engineering Library’s Leonardo Da Vinci: The Engineer exhibit. Stop by to learn more!



Capra, Fritjof. The Science of Leonardo.  New York: Doubleday,2007. Engineering Library Q143.L5 C37 2007

da Vinci, Leonardo, 1452-1519.  Leonard da Vinci: scientist, inventor, Artist.  Ostfildern-Ruit [Germany]: Verlage Gerd Hatje, 1997. Engineering Library N6923.L33 A4 1997

Kemp, Martin.  Leonard Da Vinci Experience, Experiment and Design.  Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006. Art Oversize FOLIO N6923.L33 K449 2006.

Laurenza, Domenico.  Leonardo on Flight.  Baltimore: The John Hopkins University press,2004. Engineering Library TL540.L4 L38 2007.

Moon, Francis C.The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux.  New York: Springer, 2007. Engineering Library TJ 230 .M66 2007.

Museo Nazionale Della Scienza E Della Technologia Leonardo Da Vinci.(2014).Retrieved from