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Engineering: mechanics, materials, design

Engineering is about extending society’s horizons by solving technical problems – from meeting basic needs for food and shelter to generating wealth by trade. Engineers prefer to see difficulties as challenges or opportunities – they appear to be solving problems, but they’re actually creating solutions: an altogether more imaginative activity. In exploring how technical solutions are created, this module combines the mechanics of solids and fluids with the structure and properties of materials. It includes aspects of engineering analysis, design, and modelling methods, using appropriate mathematical software. Analytical, communication, and learning skills are developed in a context that provides grounding for higher-level, more specialised study.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

The module is based around six themes: the nature of problems, static structures, dynamics, energy, endurance and human factors. Study is arranged in six blocks, one for each theme.

The opening block develops a view of engineering problems as challenges and opportunities for technical people. The creation of solutions calls for a clear analysis of what is to be done and an appreciation of how to establish an understanding of the task in hand. It is important to be able to identify how and where to find the necessary knowledge and skills.

Providing shelter was one of the earliest challenges faced by civilisations. The study of static structures in Block 2 is based on building things so that they don’t fall down. The analytical methods developed here have wider applicability to all static, load-bearing structures. The third block looks at a variety of mechanisms that are at the heart of machines; it also considers how those machines use power to do useful things, from cleaning your teeth to operating a commercial airliner. Behind all our activities as humans is a thirst for energy. Electrical energy is considered in Block 4 as a resource that is essential to modern life – so what happens if we all want to switch on at once? Hydroelectricity is one solution and it involves fluids, not only in the pipes but also in the bearings. The fifth block examines the durability of our technical solutions. Having made structures and devices that provide some useful function, it is in our interests to know about the factors that limit their useful life, whether it be overload, corrosion or merely fashion.

The module closes with the Human Factors theme. We can survive only in narrow ranges of temperature, pressure, air composition, acceleration and so on, yet we expect to be able to plunge to the depths of the ocean, to fly through the air and to travel out into space. The ultimate solutions to find are those that enable us to continue to extend our horizons while staying within the limits of survivability. (To boldly go …)

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. It is expected that the majority of the tutorials will take place online. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper. 

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year. 


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

7 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and you need a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either from level 1 study with the OU, or from equivalent work at another university.

It is assumed that you have the mathematical competencies provided by study of a module such as Essential  mathematics 1 (MST124) or its predecessor MST121, and that you have a familiarity with the broad base of engineering as would be obtained from studying Engineering the future (T174) or its predecessor T173.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End Fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 30/01/2015.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, DVD, online forum and a website.

You will need

A calculator.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way.

You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.