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Core engineering A

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Engineering materials, statics and electricity generation and storage are core engineering topics. This module introduces, in an engineering context, underpinning scientific principles, mathematical techniques and design methodologies. You’ll build 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 OpenSTEM Labs, 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.

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

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11). Any macOS is unsuitable with this module.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


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

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 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment