This page provides Professor Ressler’s responses to frequently asked questions about DIY Engineering–a 24-lecture course offered by The Great Courses.  If you have a question about any aspect of the course and it isn’t answered here, please contact Professor Ressler.


To understand “DIY Engineering,” you’ll only need a working knowledge of high-school-level math–algebra and geometry.  Some understanding of trigonometry is helpful but not essential.

The course projects also involve the application of many basic science concepts (e.g., forces, equilibrium, projectile motion, energy, work, power, torque), but these are fully covered in the relevant lectures, so you won’t need to understand them as prerequisites for the course.

Projects 6 (blimp), 7 (airplane), 8 (helicopter), and 9 (rocket) can be accomplished with basic hand tools–a hobby knife, pliers, and a hand drill.  All of the other projects require a reasonably well-equipped shop with bench-top power tools–a table saw (for rip-cutting), miter saw (for cross-cutting), scroll saw or band saw (for cutting curved shapes), drill press (for precision drilling), and power sanding station (for shaping and smoothing)–as well as a variety of hand tools and clamps.  But if you don’t have access to the required tools, you can still understand and enjoy the course–because you can experience the projects by following along with Professor Ressler.

Should I buy?

Yes! The focus of “DIY Engineering” is on the engineering design process, rather than on learning DIY skills.  The 17 hands-on projects are really just means to this end–vehicles for illustrating how engineers use math, science, and technology as tools to design useful things.  You definitely do not need to do the projects to understand and enjoy this course.

Probably not.  Although “DIY Engineering” does address a wide variety of DIY skills, the focus of this course is on the engineering design process.  The 17 hands-on projects are used primarily as vehicles for illustrating how engineers use math, science, and technology as tools to design useful devices and structures.  If you are not interested in math, science, or engineering design, you would be better served by the many on-line resources devoted solely to making things.

Software and Drawings

Appendix B (Full-Size Cutting Patterns and Layouts) is only provided in the digital (.pdf) version of the course guidebook, because most of the drawings are much larger than the printed guidebook.  To get the digital version of the guidebook, go to the Great Courses website and log in to your on-line account. (If you don’t have an account, there’s a “Create an Account” link on the login screen.) Then click the “My Digital Library” menu, and you should see a list of all TGC courses you have purchased. On the right-hand side, adjacent to each listed course, there is a “Course Guidebook” link. Click it, and the .pdf version of the guidebook will be downloaded to your computer.

If you have any difficulties with this process, it would be best to call TGC Customer Service (1-800-832-2412), because Dr. Ressler doesn’t have any control over the TGC website or any of their download materials.

Throughout “DIY Engineering,” Professor Ressler makes frequent references to Sketchup Make–a 3D modeling software package developed and distributed by Trimble.  Sketchup Make is a free desktop software package, installed locally on a Windows or Mac personal computer.

Unexpectedly, on November 14, 2017, Trimble replaced Sketchup Make with Sketchup Free–a web-based application that runs in your web browser, rather than on your desktop computer.  Sketchup Free has most of the same functionality as Sketchup Make, except that it does not allow for plug-ins and it has fewer file export options.  You can access Sketchup Free at

Fortunately, the Sketchup Make is still available–though it’s rather difficult to find on the Sketchup website.  Just go to and click the appropriate download link for Sketchup Make 2017.