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Core engineering A

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Engineering materials; statics; and electricity generation and storage feature as core engineering topics. This module will introduce you, in an engineering context, to underpinning scientific principles, mathematical techniques and design methodologies. You’ll build your confidence in framing problems, addressing design challenges and formulating engineering solutions. The development of reflective engineering practice is integral throughout. You’ll share and discuss aspects of your study with other students; conduct remote experiments using our award-winning OpenEngineering remote laboratories; and utilise industry-recognised materials-selection software.

What you will study

The module consists of three parts – each supported by a printed book:

Part 1
In part one, you’ll explore the use of materials for engineering and the importance of material choice. You’ll investigate the basic underlying principles that define materials’ properties; and practice materials selection for engineering purposes. The module will show how the internal structure of materials can influence material properties. You’ll use industry-standard software to understand materials selection for appropriate engineering use.

Part 2
You’ll study the essential engineering skill of structural analysis, using graphical methods such as free body force diagrams, bending moment diagrams and shear force diagrams. The module will contextualise this skill with a problem-based case study investigating the Centre Pompidou and the use of the gerberette in the design. Human needs are key to successful engineering design; you’ll apply the knowledge you gain to solving problems related to some structural elements that include the human body. You’ll gain an understanding of the engineers’ theory of bending and link it to the second moment of area; you’ll also extend the theory into the failure criteria of structures. The module will use the Titan crane at Fishguard to draw all the aspects of structural analysis together in a practical example of their application.

Part 3
You’ll study the concepts of the generation and storage of electrical energy, based on the laws of electromagnetism. You’ll also gain an understanding of the transmission and distribution of electricity, for both direct and alternating currents. Along with a knowledge of electrical storage and generation comes a responsibility to understand the demand, ethics and environmental impact of electrical generation. Throughout this part, you’ll use case studies to contextualise your learning and highlight key safety aspects of the generation, use and storage of electrical energy.

Scientific knowledge and mathematical skills are both essential components of engineering – they form a core part of this module and you’ll practise them throughout, with the engineering topics providing a clear context for their application. You’ll practise maths and engineering questions – through interactive quizzes – in preparation for the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs). We’ll base assignment questions on activities in the module material. You’ll also explore the principles through remote experiments in our OpenEngineering lab; and have opportunities to communicate and work online with other students.

You will learn

This module will develop your understanding of key engineering principles, while helping you to improve your study skills and extend your development as an independent and reflective learner. It will expand on and extend the broad base of engineering you’ve studied at a previous level and prepare you for further study. You’ll become proficient in using a broad range of engineering techniques and become more confident in applying mathematical techniques to solve engineering problems.

Professional recognition

This module is a compulsory part our undergraduate engineering qualifications. The learning outcomes of these qualifications are designed to fulfil the Engineering Council’s educational requirements under UK-SPEC1. Several of the leading engineering institutions accredit our engineering qualifications.

1UK-SPEC (UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence) sets out the requirements for UK engineers to achieve professional status

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

However, as this is an OU level 2 module you’ll need a good knowledge of the subject area obtained through any of the following:

  • OU level 1 study
  • equivalent work at another university
  • professional experience

You should have an interest in technologies; numeracy skills, equivalent to that gained through studying an OU level 1 mathematics-related module; and have a standard of academic English appropriate for this level of study.

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

Preparatory work

Engineering: origins, methods, context (T192) and Engineering: frameworks, analysis, production (T193) would be ideal preparation for this module.

What's included

You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • remote OpenEngineering laboratory access
  • CES EduPack software assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You'll also be provided with three printed module books, each covering one block of study, and a printed module handbook.

You will need

  • A scientific calculator
  • A device capable of producing digital images (e.g. a smartphone, digital camera or scanner)
  • Basic drawing equipment

Computing requirements

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 an up-to-date version of Windows
  • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a named tutor who will support your studies and mark and comment on your assignment work; you can also seek academic advice and guidance from them. Your tutor will offer support through email, telephone and online forum discussions.

We expect to be able to offer face-to-face and online tutorials that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend and these are open to all within the cluster and booked on-line. We aim to provide face-to-face tutorials in a range of locations students can travel to, though we cannot guarantee availability close to where you live. Online alternatives may also be provided, and recordings of these will typically be made available to students within the cluster, subject to the agreement of the participants that a recording can be made.

Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where tutorials are held, and what online alternatives are provided. We cannot guarantee that face-to-face tutorials will be hosted in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously.

We will advertise tutorials before the module starts which are led by T271 tutors, but depending on the tutorial, this may not necessarily your own named tutor. We recommend you book online to attend these tutorials.

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


You can find the assessment details for this module in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T271 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Core engineering A (T271) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2020.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school