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Appointments at residential schools

T176 Engineering: professions, practice and skills 1

Stage 1 Residential School in Engineering

Residential school module

This residential school provides essential practical experience for engineering students. It also gives them an opportunity to interact with other students and with staff in an intensive residential setting; to recognise their practical learning needs; and to begin to map ways of achieving their learning objectives. The school concentrates on important engineering issues so it complements other Stage 1 engineering and technology modules in the OU. By the end of the module, students will have developed a range of measurement, analysis, modelling, design, reporting and decision-making skills, while continuing their personal and professional development. They will have experience of information gathering from the resources of the OU library, and will have developed skills in information searching.

The residential school will:

  • enable students to experience some of the laboratory and field activities undertaken by engineers, and to develop practical skills such as taking measurements, analysing data and seeking and evaluating information. These skills are invaluable for a technology-based degree.
  • give students an opportunity to work in groups and to develop team skills such as collaborating, negotiating and communicating effectively
  • enable students to define their future learning needs and possible ways to meet them
  • provide a residential environment for intensive study and for remedial activities appropriate to Stage 1

T176 is a 30 credit module covering personal development planning, professional engineering practice and skills development at Stage 1 of the Q65 BEng Hons.

Roles of the residential school tutor

The school consists of four laboratory / workshop activities, each taking a whole day, and a group project that is spread over parts of three days. The students are divided into four large groups so that each of the laboratory / workshop sessions runs on each of four days. Students are required to participate in all activities. The activities are intended for students who have partial knowledge or experience of studying engineering and technology at university level.

Likely activities are outlined below.

Structures: students perform elementary calculations of the forces in members of a structure, using Young's modulus and Euler's buckling calculation. They then use a simple CAD package to model a two-dimensional pin-jointed structure. Finally they use plastic tubing and pin-joints to construct a light bridge structure to support a given load. Each sub-group of students tries to produce the highest ratio of supported load to structure weight. The programs are quite simple to run, but students will need help with the theory in the first part of the activity and with specification of their structures and interpretation of the analysis in the last part.

Energy conversion: this activity is based on a simulation of a copper refining process. Students work in teams to measure the amount of energy required to recover copper from a waste material using an electrolytic process. Each team makes a bid for the waste based on an estimate of the costs indicated by their analysis and the results from a spreadsheet model. Some of the environmental consequences of mining will be discussed in the activity, as well as the benefits of the extensive uses of copper in modern western society.

Noise: this activity investigates the modelling and measurement of road traffic noise. Students work in groups to measure sound pressure levels at the side of an urban road over a one hour period. These measurements are then analysed and a UK road traffic noise index (L10) for the road position is determined. Students will also examine the important elements of a model for predicting noise levels generated by traffic flow, making comparisons with their measurements with an overall aim of considering potential future control of noise levels.

Robotics: students will work in groups with a prototype mobile 'rescue a robot' to explore a simulated hazardous environment. Students will compare several ways of controlling robots, including remote control and teleoperation via video link. They will also program their robot so that it can perform its rescue mission autonomously.

Group project: an exercise in the collection, consideration and presentation of information in an engineering context. Students work in small teams to investigate a given 'problem' using available information resources and present their findings to a wider audience. This activity will begin shortly after students arrive and culminate in presentations on the morning of their final day.

There will also be a programme of workshops, lectures and other activities to support students on their particular module.

You will work in a team of two allocated to one of the laboratory / workshop activities (which you will repeat four times, each with a different student group) and to a particular student group (up to 24 students) to support their group project throughout the week. You will be expected to run up to two one-hour evening sessions on topics agreed in advance. Details are given in Completing the application form.

You will be expected to have some specialist knowledge that will assist in your tutoring and supervising one of the practical activities (see below) and be competent to help students develop their group working and communication skills. Students' work during the residential school is assessed in terms of their participation in the activities and you will be expected to work with your 'co-tutor' to complete the necessary assessment forms for each student.

It is hoped you will also be willing to mark and provide feedback on students' work submitted after the residential school. You will be offered the chance to do so with a limited number of marking contracts being available to tutors on the modules.


You should be a graduate in an appropriate discipline, with an enthusiasm for teaching your subject to adults who differ widely in their knowledge and experience. Background knowledge of the 'engineering process' and an ability to communicate it is essential. You should also be interested in assessing participation in practical activities; you will be briefed on this before the school.

All tutors will be expected to work on the group project activity and will need experience in motivating and guiding group working. Tact and diplomacy may be called for in resolving interpersonal issues within groups. The ability to instruct students in the art of extracting information quickly and effectively using online and offline resources will be required.

The requirements for tutors for each activity vary.

Structures: you should have a general or mechanical engineering background that includes some knowledge of materials properties and structural design.

Energy conversion: you should have an interest in the use of materials and questions related to materials resources. You should also be familiar with the basic physics and chemistry appropriate to the activity.

Noise: you should have a good knowledge of the basic physics of sound. You should also be familiar with use of measurement equipment. The activity will involve 'field trips' to various roadside sites close to the University campus to conduct measurements and collect data.

Robotics: you should have knowledge of the principles of robotics and related mechanical systems.

Completing the application form

Question 3

All tutors teach on Activity A: Group Project. Please use the letter code(s), in order of preference, to indicate which of the laboratory activities you are prepared to teach:

B Structures

C Energy Conversion

D Noise Engineering

E Robotics

Question 10

There will be two kinds of evening workshop: those related to the daytime activities and general topics related to appropriate skills development. You will be expected to run up to two one-hour evening tutorial sessions. Evening tutorials should be based on the learning outcomes of the daytime activities and the skills that would be useful for progressing to further study in an engineering qualification and overall professional engineering skills.

Please give your own titles and brief descriptions of tutorials that you would prefer to offer, basing them on these two lists of examples. Please also indicate any other topic areas that you are interested in. Please be sure to include this information in addition to the standard question in the question 9 text box

Activity-related topics: mechanics of materials, structural mechanics, energy, resources, electricity, sound, noise pollution, materials chemistry.

General topics: numeracy, errors and uncertainty, communication skills, professional development, examination techniques.