Free course

Engineering: The nature of problems

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Engineering is about extending the horizons of society by solving technical problems, ranging from the meeting of basic human needs for food and shelter to the generation of wealth by trade. In this free course, Engineering: The nature of problems, we learn that engineers see the problems more as challenges and opportunities than as difficulties. What they appear to be doing is solving problems, but in fact they are busy creating solutions, an altogether more imaginative activity.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:


  • view solutions as belonging to particular categories, broadly classified as: innovation by context; innovation by practice; routine
  • see how external factors affect engineering projects, and appreciate the range of engineering involved in meeting the basic needs of our society
  • recognise and apply a range of problem-solving techniques from each stage of the engineering design cycle, to include the following: physical modelling; mathematical modelling; iteration; use of reference data; refining an engineering specification
  • identify when models are likely to be useful and when they are no longer valid
  • recognise and distinguish between the following technical terms: differential equation; simultaneous equation; boundary condition; constraint; finite element analysis (FEA); mathematical model; physical model; prototype; demonstrator; anthropometric; ergonomic; product specification; functional specification.

First Published: 10/08/2012

Updated: 23/05/2019

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