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T276 Engineering: professions, practice and skills 2

Stage 2 Residential School in Engineering

This residential school presents an opportunity for engineering students to gain some essential practical experience in developing engineering solutions to a range of 'problems'. The activities are designed to complement second level engineering topics.  Students work in small groups under supervision and guidance from staff in laboratory / workshop and classroom environments. They will gain experience of information gathering from external sources and the resources of the OU library, and will have further developed skills in information searching.

This residential school will:

  • develop engineering laboratory skills in relation to the collection and analysis of data
  • develop design, modelling and analysis skills in the context of a given range of practical problems
  • use computer-aided techniques to assist the development of engineered products and systems
  • exercise a multidisciplinary approach to the solution of engineering problems
  • provide an opportunity to work in small groups towards a common goal
  • develop and practise communication and presentation skills.

At the end of the school, students will be able to:

  • explain the relationship between materials, dimensions and loading parameters in a statically determinate structure
  • apply models of certain short-term and long-term failure mechanisms in engineering materials to predict the performance of components made from a range of materials
  • relate the dynamic behaviour of a self-propelled vehicle to the design of its propulsion system
  • describe and explain the relationships between voltage and current, rotational speed and torque in an electromechanical system
  • criticise the quality and reliability of data obtained from given experiments in terms of their usefulness in a stated context
  • prepare a poster and give a short presentation to a given audience about an activity or process.

T276 is a 30 credit module covering personal development planning, professional engineering practice, data analysis, and skills development at Stage 2 of the Q65 BEng Hons.

Role 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 practical work requires students to have a basic knowledge of applied science and basic mathematical skills such as manipulating algebraic equations.

Likely activities are outlined below.

Building a composite beam: designing, optimising, constructing and testing (to destruction!) a load-bearing beam using a combination of skin and core materials. The activity involves extensive work with computer models of beam behaviour allowing students to explore a wide range of skin / core combinations from paper honeycomb to sheet steel. The 'ideal' beam is assembled and tested to establish its weight-carrying capacity within an envelope of design constraints.

Endurance and failure: a range of degradation mechanisms that dog the engineer. This activity investigates the short-term and long-term deterioration of materials and how these affect the design and construction of engineering systems.

Optimising the performance of a small vehicle: designing, building and testing a vehicle powered by a small spring. Students spend their time alternating between mathematical modelling of the vehicle system and experimenting with the components. Their final vehicle design is built and tested for acceleration and terminal velocity on a purpose-built test track.

Electromechanical systems: designing, assembling and testing an electromechanical system and optimising its performance for a range of speed and torque combinations.

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 second level study in general.

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 20 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 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 module.


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.

Building a composite beam: a good background in static mechanics, including the behaviour of materials under stress. Familiarity with basic tensile testing apparatus. Basic skills with computer-based models of beam loading.

Endurance and failure: a good knowledge of the basic physics and chemistry of material degradation through fracture, creep and corrosion. A facility with data analysis and appropriate chemical and mathematical models.

Optimising the performance of a small vehicle: a good background in dynamics with a particular emphasis on mathematical modelling. Practical craft skills will be useful.

Electromechanical systems: a good background in basic electricity and dynamics and of the operating characteristics of small d.c.motors. Basic skills with computer-based electrical measurement equipment.

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 Composite beam

C Endurance

D Vehicle dynamics

E Electromechanical systems

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 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, dynamics, electricity and magnetism, materials chemistry.

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