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Hello! I’m Dr. Tom, and welcome to my plunge into the blogosphere. I want to make this page a place where I can share not only the news about Dr. Tom’s Classroom, but also to share insights on the ME PE Exam, the world of mechanical engineering, innovations in education and science, and, occasionally, wine-making. So stay tuned!

  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 01 Aug

The DTC Blog Has Moved!

Hello Everyone! I have enjoyed blogging on my Mechanical Engineering website for a couple years. Now, with the addition of Civil Engineering to the offerings available from Dr. Tom's Classrooms, I wanted to expand my reach. So I'm starting a new blog on Blogger. So please go there to continue following the DTC blog. I'll also be inviting the DTC instructors to contribute to the blog as well. They are pretty smart and interesting bunch, stay tuned!




  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 25 Jul

Google Uses AI to Cut Energy Use and Save Millions
They say, "you can't think about everything." Well, an initiative at Google plans eventually to do just that. According to an article I found through the ASHRAE newsletter, using an Artificial Intelligence program called DeepMind it acquired in 2014 for $600 million dollars, Google has already reduced the amount of electricity used for cooling at one of its big data centers by 40%, resulting in an overall power saving of 15%. With the amount of power Google uses, this will translate into millions of dollars saved in just a few short years. Currently, DeepMind keeps track of 120 variables in the data center, but Google plans to expand the number of sensors significantly, and apply the powers of DeepMind in other areas of the company as well. It appears that soon there will be no limit to what we want to consider in solving the challenging problems we face each day.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 15 Jul

Introducing DTC's NEW Civil PE Exam Review!

I am delighted to be introducing the brand new Dr. Tom's Classroom Civil Engineering PE Exam Review. With the success of my Mechanical Engineering PE Exam Review, I have received numerous requests to provide an exam review for Civil Engineers as well. It's something I have always hoped to do, and from my experience providing PE exam prep instruction on mechanical topics to civil engineers, I knew that the methods I developed for my online mechanical review could be applied to civil engineering as well. There was only one catch; there are five civil engineering areas covered in the Civil exam, and not only am I not a civil engineer, I'm not an expert in any of the civil areas.

Fortunately, I have been able partner with a group of amazing young engineers who are passionate about teaching in addition to being very skilled their fields of expertise. I am absolutely thrilled with the team of five instructors we were able to assemble to undertake this monumental task, one for each area covered on the Civil PE Exam. I hope you will read more about them. I have been so impressed with how they have embraced the Dr. Tom Method and have worked so diligently to create excellent lessons, problems and study plans. And they are all in it for the long haul. They will each be available to answer participant questions about the course content they have created.

The 20-Week Civil PE Exam Review follows the tried and true structure and method that I developed for my Mechanical Engineering PE Exam Review, and it provides a step by step path to being successful on the exam. The DTC Civil Engineering PE Exam Review for the April 2017 Exam will be available for registration on August 1. I hope that you will share this news with your Civil Engineering colleagues. We would love to help them be as successful as our Mechanical participants. Thanks!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 20 Jun

Ford GT Wins at 24 Hours of Le Mans!

It wasn't the historic 1, 2, 3 victory of 1966, but 50 years later, it was pretty close. The No. 68 Ford GT was the GT class winner of the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours and the No. 69 Ford GT joined the winners on the podium in third. The 66 and 67 Ford GTs finished in fourth and ninth places. Overall, a great result for the team after tremendous effort aimed at winning this race.

Fortunately, the excitement continues with the remainder of the Weathertech Sportscar Championship with races at Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, VIR, Austin and Atlanta.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 03 May

New Ford GT Gets First Win at Laguna Seca!

They did it! The No. 67 Ford GT won the GTLM race at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, CA. The team started on the front row in the second qualifying position, and it sounds like this race ended up being a lot about fuel economy that allowed for a one pit stop race, in addition to excellent driving. The No. 66 had a good race as well and finished sixth in class. An excellent boost for the team as they prepare for their historic appearance at the Le Mans race in France.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 24 Apr

Solar Impulse Completes Hawaii to California Flight

Solar Impulse landed in Mountain View, California after 3 days flying over the Pacific without a single drop of fuel. Amazing!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 22 Apr

Solar Impulse Back in the Air on Earth Day!

Solar Impulse was grounded last July due to a problem with overhearing batteries, but they kept their promise to continue their around the world journey this spring when they took off from Hawaii yesterday and spent Earth Day flying over the Pacific Ocean. Great to see them flying again! Next stop Mountain View, California.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 18 Apr

Almost on the Podium at Long Beach!

The No. 67 Ford GT started near the rear of the grid and put down some blistering laps to finish in fourth, just missing the podium. A very good sign that the cars are improving. The No. 66 Ford GT was not so lucky. While the car was quick, it was tripped up on the first lap by a faulty door latch that resulted in the door flapping in the breeze until it was fixed. Just goes to show that sometimes it's the most mundane mechanical failures that can ruin a race. On to the twisty hills of Laguna Seca and then Le Mans! You can read more about the race at Ford Racing.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 22 Mar

Ford GTs Improve at Soggy Sebring

While there was still no one, two finish, the Ford GTs had a much better race at a soggy 12 Hours of Sebring, finishing 5th and 8th in the GT Le Mans class. It's good to see them improving. Looking forward to seeing how they do at the next races on the west coast: Long Beach and Laguna Seca. You can read more about the race at Ford Racing.




  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 15 Mar

Incamisana - A Marvel of Ancient Engineering

The design of extensive engineering projects, before there was modern engineering science on which to base such designs, has always been fascinating. The water system of Rome was such a design on a grand scale, and the incredible system of fountains found at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris still attracts a million visitors a year.
The ASCE Press has published a new book that provides a unique insight into the magnitude of human ingenuity found in an Inca water temple called Incamisana. Designed and built several centuries before the Bernoulli equation would provide the basis for most of our modern water systems, Incamisana is an impressive complex of channels, waterfalls, bathing pools, and fountains that would be a challenge to build even today. What a wonderful addition to the history of our profession.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 16 Feb

This Hotel IS an Air Conditioner

A recent ASHRAE online newsletter referenced an article about a hotel being built in Amsterdam, appropriately named the "Breeze,"  that will not have a traditional HVAC system. It will use basically the principle of evaporative cooling and innovative air flow designs. The photos of the building are striking, and there are nicely done graphics and schematics of the design. It is due for completion in 2017, and from the comments, there will be much observation on how well it actually works throughout an entire year of varying weather conditions. We will definitely keep you posted.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 04 Feb

Ford GTs at Daytona 24 - A Beautiful But Bumpy Start

I have been keeping a watchful eye on the efforts by Ford to repeat its 1 - 2 win 50 years ago at Le Mans this upcoming summer. After much testing and media hype, the Ford GTs debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona was, to say the least, unremarkable. There was a photo finish, but it was Corvette that took the glory.

As for the two Ford GT entries, one was out early on in the race with gearbox trouble, apparently stuck in 6th gear. And later in the race the other entry left the race stuck in 1st gear. 

Both cars eventually got back in the race and finished, giving the drivers actual racing time which will be critical if they are to achieve their goal. 

Ford admitted after the race that there were "gremlins" in the electrics and other systems. However, they are confident in the teams they have assembled, both drivers and crews, and are optimist the cars will have a considerably better showing at the upcoming 12 Hours at Sebring in March. We are also hopeful. The cars are indeed fast and beautiful to watch, but you can't win if you don't finish.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 27 Jan

The Ultimate Mechanical Wine Opener

If people know you are into wine, at any level, then at some point they will run across an interesting wine opener that they feel you must have. Many are clever and some actually work better than what you might think. However, the one in this video is the benchmark for all wine bottle openers. All others will pale by comparison. It is, in fact, a mechanical engineer's dream. Clearly part of the class of overly complicated machines called “Rube Goldberg’s,” it not only opens the wine bottle, but pours a glass as well, without spilling a drop. You will be amazed at the careful motions involved. The only problem I see with having one is where to put it when not in use, but the trouble of owning this “labor saving” device might be worth it to have the ultimate conversation piece for the wine-loving mechanical engineer.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 14 Jan

DTC Goes Behind the Scenes at NASCAR R & D Center

This week, the Dr. Tom's Classroom team and I were privileged to be invited for a tour of the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, NC just north of Charlotte. This facility is where NASCAR engineers carefully inspect car frames and engines that race in all the NASCAR series and work on safety initiatives, enhancing competition and containing costs for race teams.

We were not exactly sure what to expect, but just stepping into the lobby gave us a sense of rich history of NASCAR. On display, either physically or via video, performance is balanced by safety, and if the scale tips, it must be on the side of safety.

Behind the scenes, it really got exciting. We saw a current NASCAR XFiniity Series race car going through the rigorous and detailed inspection process. We observed race car chassis dimensions being measured in the thousandths of an inch. Any deviation must be corrected or the car does not race. Only the military has such high standards, and NASCAR's might even be higher.

On the research side, we were all impressed by the dedication to safety and the innovations that have been developed at this facility. It was clear to see that the R&D Center was a key to NASCAR’s continued successful future.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 04 Jan

Personal Mobility in 2016 and Beyond

Nothing inspires and excites a mechanical engineer more than innovative ways to get around. An ASME SmartBrief shared an article on “8 Forward-thinking Vehicles to Propel us into the 2016." While at the "slow" end is a pad the size of a laptop to move you along standing up at a rapid 6 mph, there is at the "fast" end a combination motorcycle/jet ski that can ride straight into a lake and out again.
There’s even a personal jet pack that recalls the opening scene in the 1965 James Bond thriller Thunderball. We have been waiting for one of those these last 40 years. This one is a bit pricey and fuel hungry however, so we may be waiting a little longer.
Maybe the most innovative and trending is the flying bicycle, based on current four-rotor powered drones. The photo of the rider on the machine is a bit scary, but definitely far-reaching, and a hint of what is coming our way.
Enjoy the ride, if only in your dreams!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 31 Dec

Top 10 Concept Cars of 2015
An recent ASME Smartbrief shared and article listing the top 10 concept cars of 2015, and I thought this might be a nice way to ring out the year. The list includes cars from the Who's Who of Automotive Excellence: Aston Martin, Toyota, Bugatti, McLaren, Bentley, Mercedes, Mazda, Porche, and two based on motorcycle engines, one from Honda and one from Yamaha. And even though it is already destined for production, the Ford GT received Honorable Mention. They are all dazzling, and it is unfortunate most will not make it to the showroom floors across the world. I won't give away which car was voted #1, as moving through the article from #10 to #1 is all part of the excitement these cars were conceived to generate. Enjoy.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 22 Dec

The Winemaking Year - December - A Quiet Time

December is a quiet time for the winery as we wait for the fermenting process to be complete, and it is generally a chilly time as well. I had this photo of the winery in snow all ready to post this month, but instead we have been having 70 degree weather. Looks like we’ll have to wait until January for the below freezing temperatures that will cause the unwanted impurities in the wine precipitate out. Until then, we hope that everyone enjoys the holidays, whatever the weather is like where you are.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 08 Dec

My Top Mechanical Toy Picks

In a recent ASME article a professor at MIT proposed his set of the top mechanical toys of all time. It got me thinking about what my list would include.


Certainly electric trains played a major role in my curiosity of all kinds of mechanical motions and the dynamics involved in rounding a curve. Getting power to the track and controlling an eight-wheel steam locomotive was a constant challenge.

While I had Lincoln Logs, I spent many hours helping my children build all manner of things with Legos. Now grown, they still set up a Lego train around the Christmas tree. Lego competitions are now a global events, so Legos have to be on the list.


I think of all the hours I spent building highways in the sand and dirt with toy dump trucks, earth movers, motor graders, forerunners of Tonka trucks. I had a cement mixer that made real cement. I'm surprised I'm not a Civil Engineer.

At the dawn of the space age, making rockets was all the range. Estes model rockets deserves the Nobel Prize in Safety for providing a safe way to make toy rockets. I have to admit was still making Estes rockets my freshman year at Georgia Tech.

However, my ultimate mechanical toy was in fact something that made mechanical toys - the Erector Set. The one I had (and still have) was the Amusement Park version, the second largest offered by Gilbert, who also made my American Flyer trains. I know I made every project in the book that came with the set. It has to be my favorite, and I am convinced it is why I am a mechanical engineer.

It is interesting to look back and realize how much influence these "toys" had on my life. They clearly were not just toys, but held the key to a future I could not yet see.

  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 25 Nov

The Winemaking Year - November - Thankful

Thanksgiving and its beautiful fall colors marks the end of the first phase of the wine making process. With the exceptionally warm fall weather and supplementary heaters in the winery, most of the wine seems to have completed this important process earlier than usual. We have verified this with a few samplings with our faithful hydrometer, and yes, the samples are right on 0.990 or below, representing 12% alcohol by volume. If it was not for the cold weather, we could actually do the final process on some of the wine, but somehow that would be like opening presents before Christmas morning. We must have patience and wait until winter is over and the below freezing temperatures have caused much of the unwanted impurities to have precipitated out. Byproducts from commercial wine making is actually a source of Cream of Tartar we buy in the store. We all have much to be thankful for; without a good harvest, the winery would not be full of its fermenting treasure.

We at Dr. Tom’s Classroom would like to wish everyone an enjoyable Thanksgiving.

  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 13 Nov

Ford GT Runs Naked!

In the October issue of the SAE Automotive Engineering magazine, there is an article on sightings of the new Ford GT super car “running naked” in public-road testing phase. Despite the lack of color, it is a real head turner. There is no doubt this will be the king of the road very soon. The back end, which is where most will view it, is "boss!" It is just over half the height of the sedan in front of it, and it looks to be as wide as a tractor trailer. Clearance with the ground is about the height of a beer can on its side. Estimated cost of each of the 250 super cars that will be initially built is a hefty $400,000, however its overpowering presence will surely remain long after the price will have been forgotten. A video on Ford’s website highlights the engineering and engineers behind this incredible car.
The new Ford GT racecar is also in testing, taking to tracks like Sebring, Daytona, and Circuit of the Americas with a turbocharged V6 race powertrain. All in preparation for a debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January and a historic return to Le Mans in June.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 28 Oct

The Winemaking Year - October - Making Wine Daddy’s Way

The grape vines have put on their brilliant autumn garb.

October is the first of many months of waiting for our 156 gallons wine to ferment. While we wait, I thought I would tell you a little bit more about how we make wine Daddy's way and what makes it different from the traditional method. We call it “Making Wine Daddy’s Way” after my wife's father, James McNeill, who passed the process on to me before he died in 2002.

After each bushel of grapes is washed and crushed, is when making wine Daddy's Way diverts from the traditional process. At that point, we add 9 gallons of water and 18 lb of sugar (2 lb per gallon) to bring the 5 gallon volume of crushed grapes up to 14 gallons. In order to get it to dissolve, we have to pour it into very warm water. You might think this additional water and sugar would cause the finished wine to be very light and low on taste, but just the opposite happens. Some of our wine is darker than any commercial red wine, and the taste is robust and unique. Then, using our trusty hydrometer, we adjust the sugar content until the potential alcohol is between 12 and 13%. The process then follows traditional winemaking by adding yeast, doing first fermentation, then straining and doing 2nd fermentation. In March, we will siphon off the clear wine off the lees, and following Daddy’s Way, we add a concentrated sugar mixture to get the specific gravity up to 1.005, what we call "double aught five," yielding about 120 gallons of finished wine. That’s 600 bottles! What you may have missed is that we get 3+ times the finished wine than the traditional winery produces out of a bushel of grapes, and it’s beautiful and delicious, if I do say so myself. Our wines have won blue ribbons at both the North Carolina State Fair and our county fair. So now you know the secret of making wine Daddy’s Way. It’s top secret, so keep it under your hat!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 25 Oct

Ready for the Exam - Participants’ Personalized Resource Notebooks

I was curious to see the Personalized Resource Notebooks, key exam references, created by participants in my 20-Week Review. So I asked our current participants to send photos of their PRN. As you can see from the photos, they are all indeed "Personal." They show how the handouts from the course lessons and problems have been cataloged and important tables from the MERM and other sources have been isolated on their own pages. Most are quite detailed in their notes, and many have notes in the margins of the Exam Day Companion. Several photos show the participant's set of PRN ready to go the exam site, labeled quite professionally. The milk crate organization works quite well, and is a quite common approach. Another photo shows a mock up of what a participant might set up on exam day at their assigned table. The cup of coffee was a nice touch, though I understand that might not be allowed at some sites. At least it would have to be on the floor beside their chair. But clearly, it and all the others invoke a sense of readiness that came from dedicated hard work over these last 20 weeks. Thanks to all who sent us a photos of their PRN system. We wish everyone the best on exam day. May you have a calm spirit and a clear mind throughout the exam.


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 19 Oct

Free Online Engineering Resource from ASME and McGraw-Hill

ASME has recently partnered with McGraw-Hill to provide ASME members free access to McGraw-Hill's engineering resource, AccessEngineering. Once you create an account within the ASME website, you have access to over 600 books by McGraw-Hill authors, of which I am one. You can read the books online or download whole pages or sections. They have 2 of my 3 books on the site. Hopefully they will get the Marks’ Calculation book up soon as they are adding things continually. AccessEngineering has numerous interactive graphs and charts, and a great many Excel spreadsheet templates to make all sorts of common engineering calculations. It also has some 800 online video presentations on a wealth of topics. I watched a couple videos; they are short and done well. It is an extremely powerful and friendly information resource. All the more reason to become an ASME member.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 08 Oct

Bullet on Wheels Meets Bumpy Salt Flats
The impact of rains this summer on track conditions apparently held up the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3 team from meeting it’s 400 mph goal at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. This high tech Electric Vehicle was designed and built by a partnership between students at Ohio State University College of Engineering and Venturi Automobiles. Veteran professional driver for the team Roger Schroer said, "In eleven years here I have never driven on such a difficult track." Despite the poor track conditions, the Bullet 3 attained an average two-way speed of 240 mph, bettering its record speed of almost 213 mph last year in this FIA over 3.5 ton class. As they say, there is always next year.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 28 Sep

The Winemaking Year - September - Gallons and Gallons of Grapes!

September is the busiest month in the winemaking calendar. With many gallons of muscadine grapes to process, there is a lot of work to be done! Most of our grapes are our own Thomas variety pictured in previous Blog posts, then our Tarheel and Cowart varieties. We also have some Nesbitt and Hunt that we purchased from local growers to complete our needed supply. We even did one batch we are calling "Vineyard Medley," made up of partial bushels of all the varieties. Last year's Vineyard Medley was fantastic.

For each batch, we start with a bushel of grapes, which is 8 gallons by volume. We wash them in a two-step process to remove dirt, but more importantly unwanted yeast spores. They are loaded into our over 100 year old crusher, and crank away. When crushed, the 8 gallons will be reduced to 5 gallons. We then add 9 gallons of water and 18 lb of sugar to bring the volume to 14 gallons.


Using our trusty hydrometer, the most important piece of equipment in the process, we adjust the sugar such that the potential alcohol is between 12 and 13%. Add Montrachet yeast, then let the grapes sit in the 1st fermentation barrels, stirring twice a day, for 4 to 5 days.

Then we strain out the grape hulls and other large pieces of the pulp through a fine nylon bag stretched across a large stainless steel pot, and drained into 1 gallon jugs. These jugs are then carefully poured into the 3 and 5 gallon carboys.


At the end of this process we typically have 12 gallons from each bushel of grapes, which will ferment over the winter. Yesterday we finished processing the last batches of grapes into carboys for the 2nd fermentation that will take until late March or early April to work off the sugar into alcohol. All total, we have 156 gallons bubbling away!


Our process is different from the traditional winemaking process. We call it making wine Daddy's way, named after my wife's father who passed on the process to me. More on “Daddy’s Way” in October.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 25 Sep

Drone and Dogs Save Avocados!

Being an avocado junkie, an article posted by the ASME caught my eye and taste buds. Apparently a fungus is attacking avocado trees in Florida, the second biggest supplier of avocados. Some 9,000 trees out of 700,000 have been affected. With Americans consuming 8 million pounds of guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday alone, this is serious cause for alarm. Researchers from Florida International University are using drones to scan fields for potential infestation, then specially trained dogs are brought in to locate the specific trees that are infected. Clearly a drone and three dogs named Cobra, Candy and One Betta are an avocado fan’s best friends.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 17 Sep

A New Twist on Solar Panels

A recent article in Energy News  section of the MIT Technology Review puts literally a new slant on the use of solar panels mounted on rooftops, which account for 80% of such installations. Two researchers at the University of Michigan have shown that using "kirigami," the art of not only folding but cutting, on solar panels to better follow the sun could increase the energy obtained by the panel by 40%. The idea is still in the development stage, however as the intriguing animation of the panel shows, it is definitely a new twist in solar panel design.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 28 Aug

The Winemaking Year - August - Picking Grapes

The grape picking has begun. Slow at first, but it is picking up.

First time into the grape vines and you discover all sorts of things. You definitely watch for wasp nests. This year we uncovered an empty bird nest nestled in the Cowart grapes, one of our varieties.  Hidden by grapes that will soon become part of the wine making.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 19 Aug

Massive Engineering Projects around the World.
In the latest ASME Smartbrief there is a link to an article in Popular Mechanics on the 25 greatest engineering projects currently in progress or that have been completed recently. The list is awesome, and you are drawn in by the photos of each one. All sorts of projects. Having grown up in Atlanta, I was delighted to see that the new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons was one of the projects. Its retractable roof “petals” look like quite a mechanical engineering feat. While many of the really captivating projects are tall buildings, the work of very creative architects, the buildings would not function as they should if mechanical and HVAC systems did not work as needed. I encourage you to take a few minutes and be amazed by what the human mind can conceive.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 12 Aug

Bullet on Wheels!

In the June 2015 issue of SAE Automotive Engineering an article caught my eye about a student team at Ohio State University going after a land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The vehicle shown looks like a bullet on wheels, though you can’t see the wheels. It is in fact called “Bullet 3.” It is 38 feet long and weighs 8,000 lb. In the accompanying diagram showing the various components I said to myself, “where is the jet engine?” Must be using an old J79 with afterburner from an F-4 Phantom. Nope. I should have paid more attention to the letters “EV,” meaning “Electric Vehicle.” Electric??? Come on!!! Yes, the team is planning to go for 400 mph!! They already hold the EV record at 307 mph. Amazing. It is powered by two 10,500 rpm electric motors, one driving the rear wheels and one driving the front wheels. It has only two speeds, probably labeled “fast” and “faster.” The tires only have 1/16th of inch of tread. They are planning their run for the record this month. I can’t wait to see if they succeed.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 05 Aug

Vapor Barriers or Air & Water Barriers?

In the March 2015 Issue of the ASHRAE Journal is a fascinating article titled, “Forty Years of Air Barriers.” It really addresses the challenge facing HVAC engineers on how to best to construct walls and window openings. You would think that would have already been solved, but apparently not.  The article is long and has numerous photos and detailed diagrams.  I found myself reading many sentences twice.  The author of the article, actually plays with our minds as we normally think of “vapor barriers,” however as he argues, it is “air barriers” and “water barriers” that are needed not “vapor barriers.”  He says it has taken decades for that to be appreciated.  Also in the equation are the materials builders have to work with.  Many advances have changed the focus from “inside” to “outside.”  To summarize his thoughts, he concludes by saying, “We went from the interior to the exterior, from a vapor barrier on the inside, to a water and air barrier on the outside.”  As the desire for more air tightness increases, methods and materials will be developed to meet that challenge. This very detailed article shows the complexity of HVAC work and its associated environment, both commercial and residential.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 28 Jul

The Winemaking Year - July - Fat and Juicy Grapes

July is almost over and the grapes continue to grow, almost double from last month. None have yet to turn red, but the distinct cluster of muscadine grapes can be seen clearly. Vinifera grapes, like those grown in the Napa Valley, grow in large bunches. Not so with muscadines. And we pick them mostly individually, pulling each one off the cluster, whereas in the Napa Valley the entire bunch is cut from the vine.

We are also making our list of things to order for the upcoming wine making. There is Montrachet yeast to buy, replacement stoppers and airlocks for the carboys, and a variety of other items available only from wine making suppliers. There is also much to do to get the winery cleaned up and ready to go from being dormant since the final processing of last year's wine was completed. There is much excitement and anticipation of all that will take place over the next two months. But there is always time to enjoy a glass of last year's vintage.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 21 Jul

The Biggest Passive Solar Building in the World

Passive Solar Has Come a Long Way! In 1977, almost 40 years ago, my supervisor at a textile machinery company was an PE who was a champion for what was a very new word related to energy: “Passive.” His interest was in Passive Solar, and we spent many a lunch talking about various designs. Great article on how far things have come with what will be the biggest passive solar building in the world.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 14 Jul

Solar Energy Battle in Hawaii - A Challenge for Engineers?

With SolarImpulse stuck in Hawaii until 2016 as a result of overheated batteries that will take months to fix, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at the battle over solar power in Hawaii.

For as long as I can remember, one of the motivating reasons to invest in alternative electric generation systems for your home or small business was that any excess generated, if it was the right quality (frequency, voltage, etc.), could be sold back to the electric utility, offsetting the original investment. Along with very attractive tax incentives, the growth of such systems across the US, most often based on the energy from the Sun, has exploded. This explosion of such systems has happened most significantly in Hawaii, however recently the electric utilities there have started to consider reversing their willingness to buy back excess power according to an April video and article in the New York Times. The utilities contend that power generated by individuals is damaging their equipment in ways they did not foresee when the excitement of developing such systems first emerged. This issue certainly has significant political and legal implications, however this also means that a challenge is being raised for engineers to improve the quality of the power being generated by these small systems. To not meet this challenge would be a huge step backwards in our endeavor to lessen our dependence on fossil and nuclear fuels just to provide light to read a book or microwave a dinner.  Engineers have a proud history of moving society to better things, and this is a grand opportunity to continue that proud history.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 07 Jul

Let the Ford GT40 Excitement Begin!

While the 24 Hours of Le Mans is still almost a year away, Ford is already working up the excitement around the Ford 50th year anniversary of their GT40's 1, 2 , 3 victory at Le Mans. This heart-pounding promotional video already captures the ground swell of automotive frenzy that will consume France next year with the world looking on. The sound of a hopeful victory is already deafening.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 04 Jul

Solar Impulse Lands in Hawaii!

And that’s how history is made!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 01 Jul

Solar Impulse - A Make or Break Crossing

Holding my breath as Solar Impulse gets closer to Hawaii!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 29 Jun

The Winemaking Year - June - An Explosion of Green!

The vineyard is exploding in the green growth that will nourish the tiny spheres of baby grapes into our long awaited harvest. The grapes are growing by leaps and bounds.  In another week they will be twice the size they are this week. This month is our last month of fertilizing.  We are concerned about the lack of rain, though each afternoon we are seeing a flurry of thunderstorms with mostly lightening.  We need rain!  It is really too early to tell what affect the low rainfall will have on the grapes. Stay tuned as over the month of July we may see the first tints of red, signally picking season is just ahead.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 23 Jun

Soccer and the Physics of Flight

Interesting TED-Ed video explaining how spin plays a key role in the physics of flight, and a historic moment in sports!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 17 Jun

Flying Solar Around the World

The world is always intrigued by the challenge of doing something no one else has done. Not many things left, especially when it comes to flight. One challenge left is to fly around the world using only solar power. This is what the French team of the Solar Impulse 2 is trying to achieve. Their airplane has a wingspan wider than a 747, but weighs about as much as a family sedan. When I mentioned it to my wife, she immediately asked, “in 80 days?”  Jules Verne strikes again. No, their goal is to do it in 5 months, making about a dozen stops. The biggest problem is not the solar panels or the batteries needed, but that in the passage across the Pacific, the pilot will have to remain in the seat for five straight days, and be subjected to a large extreme of temperatures. In fact, the strategies to help the pilot remain healthy are the greatest of the technologies and strategies. This epic journey began on March 9 from Abu Dhabi, and after a weather-related detour to Japan, the team’s next challenge will begin the Pacific crossing with a flight to Hawaii. If they are successful, then surely the next challenge will be to reduce the number of stops, and then the ultimate non-stop flight. Not out of the question, as one of the pilots was part of the non-stop circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon fifteen years ago. You can follow their journey at www.solarimpulse.comWired.com has been following the story, and Bloomberg.com has the most recent update that I could find. It’s a very exciting adventure to follow.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 10 Jun

50 Years of Transporting Space Ships

This year marks the 50 year anniversary of the two transporters used by NASA at Cape Kennedy to move launch vehicles from the VAB buildings to the launch pad for so many missions. The most famous was the Apollo 11 Moon rocket. Apparently they have been upgraded and will continue to be used for at least the next 20 years. They are so fascinating and overwhelming in scale that I found myself first just scrolling through all the wonderful photos included with the GIZMODO article. I then went back and read the article. The engineers who conceived, built, and operated these vehicles have much to be proud of and their continued operational legacy is much to be admired and envied.




  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 03 Jun

Exam Pass Rates at 80%, with a Pleasant Surprise

The results on the April 2015 ME PE Exam are in, and I’m happy to announce that the overall pass rate for Dr. Tom's Classroom participants continues to be right around 80%. For the first time, we broke down the pass rate by first time exam takers and repeat takers, and we discovered that the repeat takers were also right at 80%, which is significantly higher than the national average for repeat exam takers. Congratulations to another great group of students who worked hard, passed the exam, and now are Professional Engineers with a PE at the end of their names.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 29 May

The Winemaking Year - May - Tiny Green Grapes

With the March fertilizing and the spring rains, the vineyard is becoming a wonderland of green. The vines that only a few months ago looked dead, are now beaming with life. All the mature vines have a multitude of little tiny grapes that will mature between now and August into full size wine making grapes. I am always fascinated at how quickly these tiny green spheres become large dark red globes of taste and color. We even have a whole new addition to the vineyard reaching for the stars, a small vine no one gave any chance of survival.  As they say in the Jurassic Park movies, "Life finds a way."



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 14 May

Hoverboard Dreams Coming True

Like a Segway, only cool! Dean Kamen, eat your heart out. Profile at Wired.com. Beautiful Video at OneWheel's website.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 07 May

Eiffel Tower + Wind Power = Form + Function

If you missed the ASHRAE eNewsletter in March, there was a link to a Scientific American article on wind turbines being installed on the Eiffel Tower. It is part of the city of Paris’ desire to take advantage of sustainable energies. The wind turbines being installed are of a vertical axis design, in contrast to more familiar horizontal axis designs. The design are so integral to the famous structure of the Eiffel Tower, they are virtually invisible. You can hear them, but not see them unless you look very closely. These devices are some of my favorite as they combine aerodynamics, mechanical motion, and structural support, not counting the electricity generation and storage. I hate to admit it, but I did spend some enjoyable time searching for more videos of these fascinating machines installed around the world. I found this slide show of the Eiffel Tower units and a video of a similar unit by the same company that has been installed at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. It shows clearly the scale of the unit and its majestic rotation in the constant winds of that region. Very cool.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 27 Apr

3 Keys to Passing the PE Exam

I’m often asked, “What does it really take to pass the PE Exam?” It’s a good question, and one I think about every day as I’m developing and improving my ME PE Exam Review courses. I took a few minutes to distill what I’ve discovered into a short article, 3 Keys to Passing the PE Exam, that I’ve posted on Ezine Articles. I hope that this article will prove helpful to anyone taking any of the Professional Engineering Exams.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 22 Apr

50-Cent Origami Microscope!

Origami and Creativity strike again! A truly inspirational application of both! This Ted Talk is filled with so many incredible lessons on creativity, desire to change the world, and desire to reduce the suffering. http://bit.ly/1aT6biD



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 22 Apr

Exam Day Horror Story

I know that taking the PE Exam fills most folks with dread and anxiety. You have a lot invested in time and money, and only a few hours to make it all count. Over the years I've heard stories of panic attacks, taking the exam while ill, running out of time, you name it. But nothing beats the story below that came from one of my online review participants.

I planned for every eventuality.  I drove my wife's truck because it has never broken down before. I stayed at a hotel 4 miles away from the test site. I reverse drove the route during rush hour the night prior to ensure I knew where I was going. I had new tires put on my car (Wednesday) and paid for a new spare. I also changed the oil and checked the fluids. Despite being only 4 miles away, I departed 2 hours early for the exam. I even brought my PRN's and books inside the hotel room the night before in case my truck was stolen. That is how paranoid I was. Despite all that, if I got a flat tire or break down, I was going to park and take a taxi the rest of the way.

Here is what happened.

At a narrow point on the highway (no shoulder), one of my brand new tires blew, first time that has ever happened to me. I pulled off quickly at the first spot that had even a decent pullover about a 1/2 mile later. The tire was shredded. I thought no problem, I have two hours to change a tire (in the freezing rain of Denver). I've never road changed a tire on this car before. I normally change the oil etc. on ramps at home. Turns out the jack needed to be placed under the axle with this model of Lexus. So crawling under the car in the freezing rain, I slid the jack carefully into position then assembled the 4 foot long collection of extension rods that comes with the car to operate the jack. I lift the car. Remove the tire and then as I am pulling the spare out, the jack slides off and the car comes crashing down. Who designs a flat head to be placed against a round axle!? I now no longer have any room to get the jack into position. Keep in mind that I've been doing all of this in the freezing rain, partially blocking an interstate on-ramp during rush hour in downtown Denver with cars zipping past inches away.

At this point I am completely soaked and shaking uncontrollably. So I climb into the vehicle and change into my spare clothes. Every eventuality remember! I've still got 1.5 hours to go 2.5 miles. I'll ditch the vehicle here and get a cab. Then a patrol officer shows up and tells me that I can't abandon my vehicle because its over the white line and interfering with traffic. I explain my situation, and he calls for some help. Together with two more jacks and substantial crawling under the vehicle, we are able to get the spare tire on. Then the truck won't start!  We try to jump the truck, but even after 30 minutes of charging, it wont start. I'm now 15 minutes out to exam time, soaked, frozen stiff, and out of spare clothes. The gentlemen assisting me informs me that it would take a helicopter to get me to the exam site on time during rush hour. So I didn't make it. 4 hours later I am finally home, dry and warm, but without another opportunity to test for 6 months.

I'm not sure I did the odds right, but that was 4 miles out of 80,000 on that truck that I needed to go without a blowout or flat. That was the one day in the last 8 years we have owned that truck that I absolutely needed it to not happen. It has never happened before. I figure the odds of what happened are .000000017 or 1/100,000,000. I should buy a lottery ticket while the odds are with me.

So no matter how difficult your exam day was, at least you made it there and now have a chance to pass. This intrepid mechanical engineer will be trying again in October, and we here at Dr. Tom's Classroom will be doing everything we can to help him be ready.


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 16 Apr

The Winemaking Year - April - Leaves are Sprouting

The fertilizing we did in March has done its job, and the vines are off to a great start. We started spotting tiny green leaves on the bare branches in early April.

Now, as you can see, the branches are bursting with the green that will eventually be red wine.  

The vines will continue to grow, and soon the first blossoms will appear, and then ever so small baby grapes. Very exciting!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 14 Apr

The Ford GT40 - 50 Years Later, It Will Be Back
Growing up, cars and racing were the bond between my Dad and I. As I started Georgia Tech in Aerospace Engineering in 1965, all sorts of world changing events were happening in the racing world. One of those was Ford’s determination to win at the 24 hours of LeMans. In 1966, they did just that with the Ford GT40, beating out longtime rival Ferrari. I loved Ferrari, but an American could not be more proud of the accomplishment of Ford. The design was unique and unforgettable. It was the first time I learned the conversion between cubic inches and liters, as the GT40 had a 7 liter engine, or over 420 cubic inches, the largest they would ever get. SAE recently posted an article about Ford’s current efforts to build a new GT40 using carbon fiber technology with a V6 engine and plans to compete in the 2016 LeMans race, the 50 year anniversary of that original victory, again against its rival Ferrari. It will be an event I will not want to miss watching.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 08 Apr

An Opportunity for Creativity

I had the opportunity to go to a fund-raising art class for a local charity. It turned out, quite to my surprise, to be an opportunity to apply some of the principles that Sir Ken Robinson has presented in his TED Talks (see my Jan. 30 blog entry) about the elements of creativity. The painting the class was to work on, under the guidance of a local art instructor, was from the famous theme "girl with red umbrella."  First, I decided to do all the painting with my left hand to engage my right brain, where supposedly our creativity resides. Second, that I was going to be determined not to be discouraged with however it came out. Sir Ken says that you will never come up with something original unless you are prepared to be wrong. In the end, both these decisions were the right thing to do, and while I'm not putting the painting up for bid on ebay, I do not remember another time in my life that I have felt so naturally and enjoyably creative. Thanks Sir Ken!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 26 Mar

The Winemaking Year - March - New Wine at Last!

Finally winter has departed, the yeast has done its job, and now it’s time to do the last step in the process of making Daddy’s wine. Which is a good thing, because my wife is eagerly awaiting the new wine.
First, we need a sugar water mixture of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, by weight. We use distilled water to keep out any unwanted minerals. Based on preliminary calculations, we are going to need at least 90 lb of this mixture. We make it in batches, being careful not to let the mixture boil over. In 15 minutes or so, the opaque mixture of sugar and water turns instantly to a clear golden syrup, which we let cool overnight.

Next, we begin the process of syphoning off the finished wine from the dregs at the bottom of the carboys. This layer is very unstable and we take care not to disturb it. We place a light bulb at the back of the carboy so we can see exactly how close we dare go to the surface of the dregs. We lose some of the precious wine, however it is not worth contaminating the rest of the wine for maybe half a glass. The wine is drained into a 3 gallon carboy that has marks at every quarter gallon. It is important to know exactly how much finished wine we have.

We pour the wine from each batch into our plastic mixing barrel, stir well, then take our first reading with the hydrometer. Based on this initial reading, which for 12% alcohol content is almost always 0.990, the process of adding our sugar and water mixture begins. We are after a final hydrometer reading of 1.005, which means the wine will be very slightly sweet. But we have found that 1.005 is the perfect mark to give Daddy’s wine its distinctive and unique flavor. 

For some batches, the re-sugaring to reach 1.005 can take several steps, but the sampling is where the fun of wine making takes place.  Once we are at 1.005, we add a chemical to keep the yeast from re-fermenting the wine, then we return the wine to 3 gal carboys for storage in our wine cellar.

From those 3 gal carboys we fill quart size carafes which we let cool overnight in the refrigerator. The next day it will be ready to “toast the sunset.” And wife finally has new wine after a long and cold winter, and that is all that counts.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 23 Mar

Bolts That Bend!

Just when you thought they'd done about all you could do with bolts...



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 18 Mar

3D Printed Buildings and Homes - Our Future?

Of late there has been much in recent issues of the ASME ME magazine about how small parts can be made using 3D Printing technology - dozen parts consisting of small gears and such shown on the tip of a finger. Now we’re seeing how big parts can be. In Suzhow, China, west of Shanghai, a company built a apartment building and a single family mansion using 3D Printing technology. And using recycle materials on top of that! In comparison to typical construction in that area, 60% less materials were used, 80% less labor, and it took only 30% of the time. The imagination reels at what could be built using this technology.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 10 Mar

Drones - There’s an App for That

A recent article about Skydio in "Wired," tells the story of where drones, unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV’s, are heading. Several people from the Google secret Project Wing group have started Skydio. It’s founding principle is: “The hunch is that the real money won’t be in the drones themselves, but the software that makes them useful.” The articletalks about drones being controlled from your mobile phone. The included one-minute video tells all. You will not need to have a pilot license and a GPS network, just an App. Absolutely incredible possibilities!



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 03 Mar

“Engineers Use Origami to Inspire Creativity”

A recent ASME Smartbrief led me to a fascinating and award-winning video that shows some absolutely incredible structures that use origami principles to fold out or function like machines. One is nano-sized and one is the size of a large solar panel for a satellite. Absolutely amazing. The video’s theme is that using origami can help significantly with the creative process, unlike any other method.  It is definitely worth watching, maybe more than once.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 20 Feb

The Winemaking Year - February - Waiting

We are eagerly awaiting the right time to process our wine from last fall. It has been sequestered under a plastic enclosure kept warm by a small space heater located under the fermentation tables. We've dipped into some VERY cold weather this week, but it was unseasonably warm a couple weeks ago, 70 degrees. So I could not resist going and checking on it to see if any was ready. In less than a minute, the sound of bubbling was everywhere. Only a few of the carboys were not active. So, there was no need to check any of the wine scientifically with my hydrometer. Winemaking is all about patience, however as each day goes by without the availability of a new vintage, our patience is wearing ever so thin. 



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 17 Feb

The “Cool Brick” and Evaporative Cooling

A very interesting 3D printing application caught my attention in a recent ASHRAE eNewsletter. It is called a “Cool Brick,” which uses the principle of Evaporative Cooling, a 3,000 year old technology, and one the important topics covered in my PE Exam review course. The Cool Brick has the potential to provide air conditioning in very hot and dry climates with zero energy requirements. It can be formed in interesting shapes and combined with other such bricks to form interior walls. It has the potential to change the way a great many people live and their quality of life. Well worth checking out.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 11 Feb

Improved 20-WEEK Review for October 2015 Exam

I’ve made several exciting improvements to my 20-WEEK Review for the October 2015 Exam. I’ve combined the best elements of my LIVE & ONLINE and ONLINE ONLY Reviews into one improved 20-WEEK Review that offers all the lessons and materials from the ONLINE ONLY Review plus 20 new, optional Live Weekly Wrap Up sessions where I will address questions from review participants and reenforce important strategies for each topic. I’ve also added guidance for where to go in the MERM, Six Minute Solutions, and NCEES exam for specific Engineering Practice topics.

I’m always looking for ways to improve my reviews, and thanks to the feedback of previous participants, it keeps getting better. I really believe that my 20-WEEK Review will give you your best preparation for passing the ME PE Exam. The reason I believe that is I have developed exam-targeted lessons, materials and assignments and I've chosen the optimal time frame for you to get the maximum exposure to the material and strategies you need to pass the exam, comprehend them, practice using them, and retain all that you have learned on exam day. Hope to see you in the next session.

Sign up begins March 1 for the October 2015 Exam, and you can get $100 OFF the full 20-WEEK Review in March and $50 OFF if you sign up in April. Live sessions begin in May 2015, but you can get started on your review right away.


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 11 Feb

Develop Your Creativity

Following up on the theme of creativity from my earlier post, I saw an ASME Smartbrief recently referenced an interesting article on developing your creativity. We all wish we had more. In the referenced article one of those quoted said profoundly, “Creativity is a necessary skill to be successful in the work world. It’s not a luxury anymore to be creative. It’s an absolute necessity.” Oh how true! Scientists and psychologists working in the area of understanding the creative process have identified four distinct steps: Preparation, Incubation, Illumination (the Aha! Moment), and Verification, when it is determined whether “the idea has legs.” The article gives many interesting exercises to help develop our creative abilities during these four steps in the process. The article and its graphics were creative in themselves. Well worth reading.


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 03 Feb

NCEES Survey of Mechanical Engineers

Calling all Mechanical PE’s! NCEES needs licensed mechanical engineers to participate in a online survey that will be used to update specifications for the ME PE exam. The 20-minute survey asks about the tasks and knowledge required of a licensed mechanical engineer. According to NCEES Director of Exam Services, Tim Miller, P.E., “These studies help NCEES ensure its licensing exams remain relevant to current professional practice.” You need to respond by February 9 to be part of making a better ME PE Exam. http://bit.ly/1u446sW




  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 30 Jan

The Importance of Creativity

For engineers, and certainly mechanical engineers, creativity is the life blood of our profession. It has been the new and innovative ideas that have driven not only our economy, but our feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. We all wish we had more of it. Since 2006 I have been following Sir Ken Robinson, who became the Icon of TED Talks after his presentation on the loss of creativity in our schools. His premise is that our assembly-line school system has progressively removed any possibility of a child’s creativity to grow and flourish. I encourage you to watch his original 2006 presentation, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” and a later amazing presentation he did with RSA animations on “Changing Our Educational Paradigms.” I never tire of hearing him speak on his passion to help change the way we learn.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 20 Jan

My Thoughts on ASME January 15 Webinar on COMSOL Software

I was interested in this webinar because this fascinating technology clearly provides a valuable insight into the design of heat exchangers, an important topic for the mechanical engineering PE Exam. The software available from COMSOL does computer-based simulations of highly complex heat transfer and fluid flow problems. It intrigued me to learn in the webinar that the software takes the fundamental equations presented in school and brings them to life when applied to real objects. Of course, the time and expertise to just draw the real objects in 3D is taken for granted, nonetheless the graphics are impressive. Varying shades of color show exactly where critical points are happening, and can be addressed virtually without the cost and time of building prototypes and testing them in the lab. I encourage those interested in these kinds of problems to check out this webinar. It will definitely expand your toolbox of innovative problem solving approaches. http://bit.ly/1sWrZCf


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 13 Jan

The Winemaking Year - January - Proper Pruning

This year, I thought I would share the various stages of the process of making wine here at the farm. The winemaking year begins in late December and early January. Actually, the process is more like a year and four months, as last year's wine is still in carboys finishing their second fermentation cycle. More on that in a future post.

The "before" picture shows the vine of my wife's favorite variety, Thomas. All the leaves have fallen off and it is a mass of tangled runners. Some growers prune back severely, others just a little. We are probably somewhere in the middle. However, fruit will only grow on second year runners, so that is always the focus of the pruning. 

In the "after" pictures you can see the short shoots that amazing will grow from several inches to ten feet or more. It takes about a half day to prune one vine properly, realizing it will be 8 months or more before we will know if our efforts are successful. One glass always reinforces that the wait is well worth it.   



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 05 Jan

ASME Hosts Free Webinar on COMSOL Software on January 15

On January 15, 2015, the editor of ASME's ME Magazine, John Falcioni, will host a free webinar where the powerful heat transfer and fluid flow analysis and visualization software COMSOL will be highlighted. The announcement on the inside back cover of the January issue depicts a shell and tube heat exchanger with all manner of colored flow lines and temperature gradients. I’m not endorsing this product, however it clearly provides a valuable insight into the design of heat exchangers, an important topic for the mechanical engineering PE Exam. To register, go to the following website: http://goo.gl/JPf4mj. The webinar is scheduled to start at 2 pm EST.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 31 Dec

Remembering Tom Magliozzi

As each year comes to an end, we tend to reflect on those who have passed over the last year.  For me, the passing of Car Talk host Tom Magliozzi in early November stands out as one that touched my heart. For many of us, what we know about cars we learned from their advice to countless callers to their regular Saturday morning radio show on National Public Radio. Known as the Tappet brothers, he and his brother Ray were probably the most famous graduates of MIT and wonderful ambassadors for mechanical engineering. I was always fascinated at how they could bring the complexities of modern automobiles down to the solution of a problem that all could understand, and in the process make it outlandishly funny. Tom’s infectious laugh will remain as the benchmark of how to see the world and ourselves. He will be missed by those in “his fair city,” Cambridge, Mass., and around the world. TechCrunch.com tribute and Boston Globe obituary.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 17 Dec

New FAST TRACK Review Courses!

A lot of folks are just now getting started on their review for the April 2015 ME PE Exam. Because it’s a little too late to jump into my 20-Week Review, I have created two FAST TRACK Review Courses to help them accelerate their preparation for the exam. There is one FAST TRACK for those taking the MECHANICAL PM Exam and one for those taking the THERMAL/FLUIDS PM Exam. Each Review gives you access to all the same strategies, study plans, problem reviews, and helpful materials as the 20-Week Review. I have arranged them in a slightly different order to help you get through the material in a shorter timeframe. But keep in mind that you’ll need to increase the amount of time you spend on your review each week to get through all the material. The FAST TRACK Reviews for the April 2015 Exam are available now, so you can Sign Up and begin your review anytime.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 16 Dec

Making a Toaster from Scratch

I watched a TED Talk recently about a young man who decided to build a toaster from scratch - including making all the materials that go into making each of the parts. The cheapest currently available toaster he could find had over 400 parts, in five categories of materials. Ambitious project indeed, for anyone. Mr. Thwaites may call himself a “designer,” however he displayed all the qualities of an outstanding “engineer.” Like all engineering projects, his initial attempts failed, but he never gave up trying to find information about how to make the materials he would need. I think by attempting this process, he illuminated the reality that the things engineers design “evolve,” they do not appear working perfectly the first time. The simple things that we use and take for granted everyday are actually quite complex and the result of the combined knowledge of the many engineers, designers and creative thinkers who have come before.  It's a fascinating story I wanted to share. http://bit.ly/1IZ8v4T



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 01 Dec

New Extended Review Course!

I understand that, for various reasons, some people need to extend their review over a longer period of time, so I created an Extended Review Course as a flexible way to prepare for the exam if you need this extra time. The Extended Review gives you access to all the same strategies, study plans, problem reviews, and helpful materials as the 20-Week Review for up to 12 months, depending on when you start. The Extended Review for the October 2015 Exam is available now, so you can sign up and begin your review anytime.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 29 Sep

New Final Review Materials Added to Course

Last week we held our last live classes in the review for the October 2014 exam. I have really enjoyed working with the participants in this session. They have worked hard and should do well on the exam. Usually, this is where I wish them the best on the exam, leaving them with three to four weeks before the exam to pull their resources together and go back over the parts of the course they think they need to review. But I’ve been wanting to provide some guidance and add a few extra problems and questions to help folks organize those last weeks into a productive final preparation for the exam. So I’ve done just that with 12 new problems covering the Common AM Exam topics and 24 Non-Quantitative Questions on Engineering Practice and other general topics. I’ve also given them my recommendations on how to best approach these final weeks of review. And as always, I’m wishing everyone the best on the exam.


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 11 Jun

Exam Day Recap from a Successful Dr. Tom Student

I received an email from one of the students from my Winter 2013-14 Review session about his experience with the April 2014 ME PE Exam. He has generously allowed me to share his thoughts with you. I think he very eloquently sums up what it takes to be successful on this exam. I hope that his words will be an inspiration to anyone wanting to become a PE. With the right preparation and materials, you can be successful too!

Good morning Dr. Tom,
I've received my results back for the April 2014 exam and...I PASSED! I just wanted to thank you again for all your help during my preparation. I'm extremely relieved that I don't have to take that test again. The Exam Day Companion, the PRN's, as well as your test taking tips from the videos on your website, were extremely helpful during the exam. Leaving the exam I felt like the April exam was more difficult than the October exam, however, I felt I did better in April. Whereas in October, if I came to a problem that I didn't know how to work, I would start looking for something, anything, that maybe I could use. After a few of these, panic would start to set in. During the April exam, in the same situation I would put down "B" and move on....no big deal...don't sweat it....just like you say in your Exam Strategy videos. This came in especially helpful during the afternoon section. The morning section wasn't too bad. I was through the exam the first time in about 2.5 hours, which gave me plenty of time to go back and look at the ones I breezed over. There were some questions/subjects on there that I wasn't expecting to see so I chalked those up to "B" and moved on. At lunch, I felt I'd done well enough on the morning to at least have a shot as passing if the afternoon wasn't too horrible.The afternoon section didn't pull any punches. The first five or six questions I had to skip but I kept cool and didn't panic. I was through the afternoon section in 3.25 hours, and during the final 45 minutes I was able to go back and work four of the problems I skipped right at the start. I used mainly the Exam Day Companion and PRN's for the exam although I did use the MERM, Shigley, and the FE reference manual at times. The way the Companion is set up is way more useful in the exam than the MERM. The MERM has a lot of great information but filtering out exactly what you need can be time consuming. I used the MERM as basically a last ditch effort on problems that I wasn't sure about, trying to find anything helpful. Thanks again for all your help. I enjoyed taking your class. It was set up in a way that wasn't grueling to get through. For me, having a plan every week and knowing what I needed to do each day was extremely beneficial since I'm not a planner. The lessons were clear and easy to follow and I liked the fact that you focused just on what we needed for the exam.
Thanks again Dr. Tom!


  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 09 May

Dr. Tom in Mechanical Engineering Magazine

I always want to spread the word about the importance of licensure for mechanical engineers, and this month I got a wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts in the Comments section of the May 2014 edition of ASME’s Mechanical Engineering Magazine. You can check it out on page 9! If you don’t get ME Magazine, I have posted a slightly larger version of the article at: http://bit.ly/1uJsvkP.

  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 16 Apr

Supporting Our Military Engineers

I am very proud to be able to support our military and former military mechanical engineers in their efforts to become Professional Engineers with a 15% Military Discount. I’m an old Navy man myself, and I’m so glad that someone asked me if I had military discount, because it made me realize  that we needed to offer it. So if you’re active military or a veteran, CLICK HERE find out how to get your discount.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 02 Apr

The Results Are In!

The results on the October 2013 ME PE Exam are in, and I’m thrilled. Of the Dr. Tom's Classroom participants who took the October 2013 ME PE Exam, those who viewed at least 70% of the materials had a 100% pass rate. I only had one who did not pass, and he had viewed less than 60% of the lessons. That just goes to show that the folks who put in the work are the ones who pass. Congratulations to this great group of students who worked so hard, passed the exam, and now are Professional Engineers with a PE at the end of their names.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 26 Nov

This made my day...

It just made my day to get this comment on one of my YouTube Videos.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 20 Nov

ASME 2013 - We have the winners

David Bucklew from ASME did us the honor of drawing the winners for our free course giveaway. Congratulations to Sherif Soliman, the winner of our grand prize: a FREE Dr. Tom's 20-Week LIVE & ONLINE ME PE Exam Review Course and to Sean Miller and Emil Geiger, the winners of the FREE Dr. Tom's 20-Week ONLINE ONLY ME PE Exam Review Courses. Thank you to everyone who entered our drawing at the ASME 2013 International Congress & Exposition! They will receive a 10% discount on any Dr. Tom class they take.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 19 Nov

Having a great experience at ASME 2013

I enjoyed meeting lots of folks yesterday at Booth 200 at the ASME 2013 International Congress & Exposition – folks of all ages and from all parts of the country and the world. It was great talking with them about preparing for the ME PE Exam, and helping them realize that it’s never too late to get your PE, especially if you let me help you prepare for the exam! There’s still time to enter to win a free course, and everyone who enters gets 10% off any course.




  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 18 Nov

We Made It to San Diego!

After flights delays and missed connections, we managed to arrive just in the nick of time to set up the Dr. Tom Classroom booth at the ASME 2013 International Congress & Exposition. I met and talked to lots of great folks last night and I’m looking forward to meeting more today.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 29 Oct

Very interesting article

I just read an article in the November 2013 ASME magazine in which the Dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, Dr. Richard Benson, says that the half-life of a new graduate staying in the engineering field is from 2 to 15 years. What happens is the skill set they graduated with becomes obsolete at an increasingly rapid rate. The discipline it took to get an engineering degree makes that career changes to business, medicine, or law are easier for engineers than for people from other fields to transition into engineering. For those who stay in the field, they must develop an intensive life-long learning attitude – networking with young engineers at the office, taking a short course on an emerging technology, and being active in the ASME. I would suggest that pursuing their PE is another way for engineers to sharpen the skills lost to the sands of time, while providing a recognizable accomplishment in the profession at the same time.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 23 Oct

We have a new ad!

The new Dr. Tom's Classroom ad is in this month's Mechanical Engineering magazine.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 17 Oct

The right calculator is very important

Having the right calculator is very important. Make sure you do!

For list of approved models, go to the NCEES Calculator Policy Page.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 15 Oct

DTC Information Forum

The DTC Information Forum is a new addition to my 20-Week ME PE Exam Review Courses for this session. It provides a place for students to ask questions about the course content and get answers from Dr. Tom. They can also search the forum to see if someone has already asked their question. I’m looking forward to a lively Q & A session with the Winter 2013-2014 students.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 14 Oct

Making Wine Daddy's Way

When I'm not helping ME's to become PE's, I spend some of my time making wine. My wife's father taught us how to make wine "his way," and we carry on the tradition making wine from the grape vines on the family farm.



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 02 Oct

 What it takes.

I don’t know Troy Bishop, PE, but he has a great sense of humor about what it takes to study for a PE Exam. This little YouTube video says a lot:



  • Written by Dr. Tom Brown, PE
  • 01 Oct

Best chance to succeed...

One of the key insights I’ve discovered in my years of preparing ME’s to take the ME PE Exam is that when you look at the NCEES specifications, there is one afternoon exam that gives most people the greatest chance of succeeding on the exam, and that’s the Thermal/Fluids PM exam.

To see how I came to that conclusion, check out my FREE ME PE Exam Strategy Course.



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DTC Exam Review Schedules

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This is about passing the exam.

show “I understand in the years you’re out of college, you’re going to loose your proficiency. Let me help you get it back. At least until you have passed the exam. This is not about recovering everything you learned. This is about passing the exam.” Dr. Tom

A plan that can get you there.

show “If you work hard in my class, you will do well and you will be a success and feel good about it. It is not going to happen overnight, but I have a plan that can get you there.”  Dr. Tom

Get back up to speed.

show “What I want to do is to help you get back up to speed on the areas that you need to pass the exam in the nine subjects that you had in college. That's a daunting task I realize. That’s fine. We're going to do them one at a time. Step by step. Just keep moving with Dr. Tom. You will get there”  Dr. Tom

I want to help.

show “The more I've worked with mechanical engineers, the more I want to help them obtain their PE. That really is what I enjoy doing. When folks who have been in the Dr. Tom PE Review Course take the exam and tell me, “Dr. Tom, I passed,” I nearly jump up and down. It's so very, very rewarding!”  Dr. Tom