It may have had its start as a repository for random personal videos but today YouTube boasts high-production, in-depth content on a stunning array of topics – including engineering.
Here are seven worth checking out – if you haven’t already.
Stuff Made Here
A moving basketball backboard that won’t let you miss. A robot that can solve a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle. An attempt to beat the world home-run with a .50 calibre explosive baseball bat. Stuff Made Here is nothing if not ambitious, building never-before-made machines out of a home workshop that would be the envy of some engineering shops.
Though it doesn’t take itself too seriously, the engineering prowess and fabrication sophistication is serious indeed. Videos often start with the stated goal – say a hair-cutting robot – and then follow the design, testing and refinement process, showing the missteps, troubleshooting and redesigns.
The channel is the brainchild of US mechanical engineer and programmer Shane Wighton. Prior to building his channel, Wighton built and ran the R&D lab for Formlabs, a leading 3D-printer manufacturer.
Wighton explicitly states that his goal for the channel is to expose as many people as possible to the joys of engineering. “If I’m lucky a few people may become engineers, which would be great for the world,” he says. “Engineering is awesome.”
Where to start: I made a 100MPH flying hoop
Smarter Every Day
If you could personify enthusiasm for engineering, physics and mechanical forces into a single person, they would probably be a lot like Destin Sandlin, the face of Smarter Every Day.
A mechanical and aerospace engineer who previously worked as missile flight test engineer, Sandlin specialises in deep-dive explorations of everyday phenomena (think spaghetti snapping, or how grain bins work), using them as jumping off points to memorably break down the forces at work and why things are engineered the way there are. There are also heavy lashings of incredibly slow-motion video, to reveal what we miss in the blink of an eye.
Like Stuff Made Here, Smarter Every Day is dedicated to fostering enthusiasm for engineering and science. But while the explanations are approachable, they’re rarely over-simplified.
Where to start: Mystery of Prince Rupert’s Drop at 130,000fps
Cutting Edge Engineering
One for the machinists (and machinists at heart) out there, this channel centres around a Gold Coast machining and fabrication workshop. Their focus is very much the earth-moving, mining and civil construction industries, so expect lots of heavy equipment.
Most of the videos document major repairs, manual machining and heavy fabrication, following the process from beginning to end. Think long loving shots of lathe machining and line boring.
And it’s worth hanging around to meet the chief safety officer.
Where to start: Replacing BROKEN Eye on A-frame for CAT 745 Articulated Truck | Machining, Welding, Milling
If anything, the gender imbalance in engineering is even more pronounced on YouTube than in reality, which makes RiverTechJess a rare representative.
An aerospace engineer turned conversation engineer and geomorphologist, Jessica Droujko’s channel covers everything from simple how-tos, career advice and guidance through a PhD program.
Where to start: How Engineers Can Help the World | Why am I Building a Turbidity Sensor?
Likely the oldest channel on this list, Engineer Guy is the creation of long-standing US engineering educator Bill Hammack. A chemical engineer by training, Hammack’s main focus is explaining the ingenuity of the engineering behind everyday objects, from inkjet printers and popular toys.
While the channel is now defunct, there are almost 10 years of content to catch up on for those who are interested.
Where to start: The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can
Ben Krasnow is a backyard tinkerer par excellence, which probably has more than a little to do with his day job a senior staff hardware engineer at Verily, part of Google Life Sciences.
At Applied Science, Krasnow uses his extensive experience in design and constructing electromechanical prototypes to build some highly impressive devices in his home shop, from waterjet cutters to clear flexible printed circuits to a functioning electron scanning microscope. But his broad interests also cover everything from chemistry to optics to gastronomy.
Where to start: Drill through anything (conductive) with Electrical Discharge Machining
Little is known about the unnamed host of Tech Ingredients, but it’s clear he knows his stuff, and knows how to explain complex topics to audiences. Never afraid to drill down into the detail, the channel is a wide compendium of interests, from DIY rocketry, to innovative air conditioning, to advanced acoustics.
No matter the topic, precise, detailed explanations are delivered in a way that will make many engineers wish this man has been their uni professor.
Where to start: The Turbojet!
- The Efficient Engineer: Simplifying and explaining basic engineering concepts for mechanical and civil engineers.
- Mark Rober: NASA-engineer-turned-YouTube personality, famous for elaborate prank devices.
- colinfurze: A mad British lorry mechanic building dangerous things in his shed.
Got a favourite we missed? Spread the word in the comments box below.