Engineering: origins, methods, context
This introductory module examines the range of human activity that is ’engineering’, setting current practice in a historical context and looking forward to new developments that will help shape the future. Key scientific principles, mathematical techniques and design methodologies are introduced and explained, to equip you with a basic toolkit on which to build further study. Mathematics is presented in an engineering context to emphasise relevance and build your confidence in framing problems, addressing design challenges and formulating solutions. Reflective practice is encouraged throughout and you will have the opportunity to share and discuss aspects of your work with other students.
What you will study
The wealth and safety of nations depend upon engineering skills. This module, which is the starting point for a recognised qualification in engineering, shows you why. It uses a combination of books, online resources and media to help you become a:
- successful learner
- well-informed student of engineering
- confident user of mathematics.
This module introduces you to key principles of engineering and design engineering, while helping you to improve your study skills and to develop as an independent and reflective learner. You will learn how the broad discipline that is engineering has developed over time, explore current examples of engineering practice, and get a taster of future trends.
Scientific knowledge and mathematical skills are both essential components of engineering. They form a major part of this module and are included and practised throughout, with the engineering topics providing a clear context for their application.
The module is presented in two parts, each supported by a printed book. Your study will be guided from the module website, which includes interactive online activities, practise quizzes and media clips. You will have opportunities to communicate and work online with other students, and have tutor support throughout the module.
The first part introduces the scientific and social context within which engineering has developed and is currently practised. It explores the nature and purpose of engineering by looking at examples of engineering products and projects, and of engineers at work, and provides an opportunity to think about your own experience and plans for the future. The resources needed for engineering are explored. These include people skills, sources of information and guidance, scientific models and mathematical techniques, as well as physical resources like materials and energy.
The mathematical focus of this part is on algebra and mathematical modelling. Topics will include:
- using numbers, symbols and units appropriately
- setting out and rearranging equations
- working with fractions, percentages and powers
- creating a mathematical model
- drawing and interpreting graphs.
There are opportunities to check that you have the basic background knowledge needed to study the module and to fill in any gaps, and plenty of chances to practise applying techniques to engineering problems.
Other activities will explore learning styles, time management, study techniques and good academic practice. You will be guided in using the OU library and encouraged to interact with other students on the module forums. You will use a learning log to record and reflect on your progress.
Design engineering is the focus of this part. You will begin by looking at ways of approaching complex design problems and then look at all stages of the design process, from finding problems to testing final design solutions. Case studies will be used to provide examples of the evolution of design projects, and how the relationship between creative to analytical thinking can be harnessed.
Key engineering topics covered will be:
- design contexts – drivers, conditions and constraints
- identifying, framing, representing and researching design challenges
- creative techniques and approaches to problem solving
- talking about design engineering – words, images, drawings, communication
- the design process – iteration, optimisation, physical and digital prototyping
- current and future trends in design engineering.
You will have more opportunities to practise and extend your skills in algebra and using graphs, and new mathematics topics in geometry and trigonometry will be introduced. You will be encouraged to experiment with using techniques from your growing ‘mathematical toolbox’ to tackle engineering challenges.
Part two of the module will also introduce you to Open Engineering Studio, a virtual space where you can share work with other students, share ideas, and give and receive feedback on design tasks.
Throughout the module, interactive quizzes will give you a chance to practise maths questions to prepare for the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs). Assignment questions will be based on activities in the module material.
By the end of this module you will be very well prepared to continue your studies in engineering.
If you are considering progressing to Engineering: frameworks, analysis, production (T193), normally you should have completed or be studying this module.
This is the introductory module for all OU engineering qualifications. The learning outcomes for these qualifications are designed to fulfil the Engineering Council’s requirements under UK-SPEC and are accredited by several engineering institutions as fulfilling the educational requirements for professional recognition.
Two module books, module handbook, assessment guide, access to the module website which includes an interactive module map, online study material and activities.
You will need
A scientific calculator, basic drawing equipment and a device capable of producing digital images (e.g. a smartphone, digital camera or scanner).
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.
A desktop or laptop computer with either:
- Windows 7 or higher
- macOS 10.7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.