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Archive for January, 2012

As a first year aerospace (or mechanical) engineering student it is really hard to find out which books are really worth the money and which are not. Being almost done with my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, I have gone through a lot of books, some rather disappointing, others eye opening. I found out that it is hard to find god reviews and recommendations for books that could help one along the journey. Textbooks unfortunately are shamelessly overprized, reviews usually go to both extremes (ranging from “Oh my God this is the bible!!!” to “Worst book ever printed in human history”, I read it all). Most students have had bad experiences with textbooks early on, since scientists sometimes tend to boast and cherish a complex and hard to understand style of writing. Money beeing scarce, students oftentimes don’t want to take the risk. So here is my very special selection of books that will help anybody who is, or wants to, study aerospace (or mechanical) engineering. Beware, as some of the books I recommend will be in German.

In this first instalment of The Aerospace Engineer’s Library we will discuss books for mechanical engineering (of which aerospace engineering is a sub-field) in general.

General Mechanical Engineering

Technische Mechanik (Heinz Ulbrich) – Every mechanical engineer (and related) needs a thorough grounding in engineering mechanics. Paradoxically, this is one of the courses that students are most afraid of! The reason for this paradox is fairly easy; most mechanics professors (especially in Germany) suck at teaching and are proud if more than 40% of the students fail their class. How crazy is that! Heinz Ulbrich did a pretty good job with his book. There are no explanations, as this is left to other books, but instead worked problems. There are plenty of solved problems for all important fields of mechanics (statics, dynamics and mechanics of materials). This book is a real gem, because the solutions are very thorough. One can basically reach a working knowledge of engineering mechanics by knowing the basics and working through this little book.

Control Systems Engineering (Norman S. Nise) – Wow, this one is a real beauty. Partly in color, very complete. In this book one can find everything that is needed as an undergraduate mechanical engineer and more (I’d even theorize that it’s all you need to have as a graduate and doctoral student, depending on where you want to go)! The writing style is great, concepts and theories are very well explained and the text is enhanced with many diagrams, pictures, real world examples and sample problems. Problems can be found at the end of each chapter and solutions at the end of the book.

Maschinenelemente (Roloff/Matek) – Knowledge is nice to have. But if that knowledge cannot be transformed into practical value, it is worthless. This book helps to transform the theoretical knowledge one has learned in college into real-world problem solving. See, the theory you learn in college will not help you at all in dealing with the real world problems of a mechanical engineer. You need to know how things are done in the real world, and this book will show you. The Roloff/Matek, as it is affectionately called, is a textbook that shows how classic mechanical engineering tasks are solved. Almost everything you need to know is in here, from the design of specific mashines to the preliminary calculations. Emphasis is on how things are done, not so much the theory.

CATIA V5, Grundkurs für Maschinenbauer (Ronald List) – Back in the day mechanical engineers had to do everything by hand. There was no cool computer program that could help them. Now things have changed (though it is still not certain if the computerization of engineering has made the task easier or harder). CATIA is one of these programs, helping to shape an engineers ideas in a 3D instead of a 2D environment (pen&paper). Unfortunately somebody has done a very bad job writing a documentation and tutorial for CATIA. This book fills the niche. It is a coherent collection of more or less step by step tutorials that give you hands on practice. This makes it fantastic for learning the basics of CATIA. Of course there will be much more to learn but this book will teach you more than your college classes!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will discover a few books specifically for aerospace engineering.

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