Top 10 Engineering Moments of The Simpsons
Isaac Maw posted on October 30, 2018 |
We recap the best work of Homer, Martin Prince, Professor Frink, and more.

In the thirty years it's been on the air—and especially during the first ten of those years—The Simpsons has represented the quintessential American nuclear family. Homer Simpson is the everyman, in a literal sense: he's held dozens of jobs over the years. 

While Homer's resume doesn't include "Engineer," we can't watch The Simpsons without noticing a few impressive engineering achievements. Here's our list of the top ten engineering moments from the show.

Honorable Mention: Homer's Time Travelling Toaster


Appearing in Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6, Episode 6), Homer's repair job on the family's toaster creates a time machine, sending him on multiple journeys to alternate timelines. This device didn't make our official top ten list partly because its function was technically an accident, and partly because it's probably closer to magical artifact than electrical device. 

In the picture, we can see a few components that Homer added to the toaster, giving it its temporal powers: what appears to be the guts of an old tube radio, a string of Christmas lights and something that looks a bit like a distributor cap stuffed into the top left.

10. The Monorail

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Season 9 / Episode 11

Coming in at the bottom of our list, the Monorail is not an example of good engineering, but it is the most iconic Simpsons engineering project, from possibly the most iconic episode of the show. While the Monorail project featured excellent sales and marketing tactics, it was ultimately doomed to failure by shoddy design and execution. 

In the shot above, you can also see Springfield's popsicle stick skyscraper, which—if it wasn't just an end-of-episode sight gag—would’ve surely make this list as well.


9. The Li'l Lisa Recycling Plant

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Season 8 / Episode 21

When Mr. Burns needs a new project after losing control of the power plant, he leverages Lisa's passion for recycling to co-create this cutting-edge recycling plant. 

However, the twist comes when we discover that Mr. Burns has harnessed the creature-catching power of plastic six-pack rings to create a kind of trawling net, harvesting all types of ocean life, mulching them to create a valuable slurry.

This project makes our list because of the ingenuity in creating such a highly effective plant entirely out of recycled materials, and using it to manufacture a highly value-added product. 


8. The Car Built for Homer

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Season 2 / Episode 15

Design is an important part of the engineering process, and every engineer knows what it's like to deal with a design team that really isn't thinking about the viability of their ideas. 

In this episode, Homer's brother Herb Powell orders his team of automotive design engineers to listen to Homer's design ideas, despite knowing the ideas won't work. However, actually building the vehicle is a remarkable achievement. 

Unfortunately, Homer's car bankrupts Powell Motors, leading to its acquisition by Kumatsu Motors.

7. Homer’s Inventions

In season 10, episode 2, Homer is inspired by Thomas Edison's career and decides to become an inventor. 

Professor Frink (after giving him some foundational reading on thermodynamics, hypermathematics, and microcalifragilistics) explains that all an inventor has to do is, "Think of things that people need, but which don't exist yet," or "take something that already exists and find a new use for it."

Here are some of Homer's ideas:


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All-purpose electric hammer: for all your pounding needs.
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Everything's okay alarm: a piercing squawk will sound every three seconds unless something isn't okay.

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Revolutionary makeup gun: "For the woman who only has four-fifths of a second to get ready."
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The lazy man reclining toilet chair.
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Safety legs prevent chair from tipping.

Of course, that last one is later revealed to have been invented by Edison. Sorry, Homer.

6. The Inanimate Carbon Rod


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Season 5 / Episode 15

The fifth season of the show brought us Deep Space Homer, a truly classic episode that sees Homer sent into space as a representative of "the average American," in a marketing strategy by NASA to raise Nielsen ratings of the launch broadcast.

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When Homer breaks the handle of the capsule's hatch, the astronauts fear they'll burn up on re-entry. That is, until Homer wedges it closed using a carbon rod. Of course, upon their safe return, the rod gets all the credit.

5. The Beer Baron's Underground Pipes

When Springfield enacts prohibition, beer-loving Homer won't stand for it, flouting new police chief Rex Banner's rule of law.

Dubbed "The Beer Baron," Homer creates a network of underground pipes to carry booze-filled bowling balls to Moe's speakeasy. The system is quite complex, and even Marge can't help but be impressed.

I had to link to this YouTube clip of the contraption, since an image just can't do it justice.


Season 8/ Episode 8

4. CHUM

The exact year The Simpsons 'golden age' ended is a matter of debate, but few fans count season 15 and beyond within that pinnacle. However, I had to include this gem from season 16: the episode Fat Man and Little Boy, in which Springfield Elementary School holds a science fair. 

Lisa's intellectual rival and local teacher's pet, Martin Prince, seems poised to take the top spot in the fair when he reveals his project "CHUM," short for Childlike Humanoid Urban Muchacho. The humanoid robot, built to be Prince's best friend, seems decidedly unhappy with the arrangement--even asking Prince not to hold his hand, calling it "creepy."

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Season 16 / Episode 5

Attitude aside, CHUM is a decidedly impressive engineering achievement, especially for a fourth grader. 

3. ‘Smashius Clay' (or 'Killhammad Aieee')

The season 15 episode I, (Annoyed Grunt)-bot parodies Battlebots, with Bart and Homer entering the competition. In this episode, Homer has decidedly less engineering skill, and is forced to do battle himself, impersonating a robot (Chief Knock-a-Homer), to avoid disappointing his son.


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Season 15 / Episode 9

This turns out to be a poor decision when it comes time for the title bout against this undefeated super-robot made by the Frink father-son duo. Resembling ED-209, the robot is an impressive piece of engineering. Luckily, "Killhammad Aieee" is programmed with Asimov's three laws, preventing it from harming humans.

2. Homer’s Class II Fission Reactor

In the floating timeline of the show, the character's abilities vary wildly from episode to episode. In the one above, Homer can't build a functioning battle robot, but in Fat Man and Little Boy when Lisa fears her model of a fission reactor won't beat CHUM in the science fair, Homer steals some plutonium from work and assembles a fully functional Class II fission reactor.

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Season 16 / Episode 5

1. Mr. Burns' Sun Blocking Device

The field of civil engineering includes monumental undertakings that can not only create massive value for the population, but on the grand scale can also stimulate the economy, such as the public works projects under Roosevelt's New Deal. 

Mr. Burns realizes that the Sun is cutting into his personal economy as electricity supplier to Springfield. In retaliation, he designs a massive shade to block out the sun, forcing residents to keep the lights on 24 hours a day. 

This project makes number 1 on this list because it's the largest and most expensive project—and most importantly, it actually worked exactly as intended.


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Season 6 / Episode 25


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Burns activating his sun-blocking device.

We hope you enjoyed this list of the greatest engineering moments in The Simpsons. 

If you think we overlooked an important moment, let us know in the comments below.

For more top ten lists for engineers, check out:

Top 10 Engineering Jokes
Top 10 Engineering TV Shows
Top 10 Apps for Engineers


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