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Student and tutor module reviews

Engineering small worlds: micro and nano technologies

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: T356
  • Level: 3
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Student reviews

This is a fascinating module, but not an easy one. I have managed distinctions in most of my level 2 and level 3 modules, but for this one I was relieved to come out with a Class 3 pass, and this seems to be a common experience. There is a LOT of information to take in (don't be fooled by the relatively slim books!) If you have a science background you may find it easier as some of the material may be familiar to you.

Course starting: February 2014

Review posted: July 2015

This course is varied and although the books are thin, they are densely packed with facts and data.

Block 1 was the toughest for me, on structural and inertial systems, especially the section on Gyros. There was lots of information in the techniques wing on micro and nano manufacturing processes that in parts seemed like a chemistry course learning all the reactions taking place.

Block 2 on electronic and optical systems was good. Again it had a science feel to it...this time reminding me of my old Physics A-level, but generally was found to be ok.

Block 3 on biological and fluid systems was suprisingly the most enjoyable. I found this very interesting, even though the section on fluids was short but there was lots to take in.

The exam for this presentation was a bad one, and lots of people struggled with it. There was questions involving analysing a schematic for a micro device and a graph question that required various plots to be added and these were found to be not the norm and seem to throw people off in the exam. The optional question on the biology block also included a new device to get to grips with and again people thought this was a bit harsh in exam conditions. I didnt think the exam was bad and was very pleased with the grade I got.

Overall this module is a very good but tough course.

Andrew Scott

Course starting: January 2012

Review posted: August 2013

This module is tough going but packed with lots of interesting material.

Block one was heavy going on the chemistry side of all the reactions in the processes of semiconductor manufacture. The parts on inertial type sensors and gyros was fairly tough. The opening to the block on structural systems was easier.

Block two was probably the hardest of the three blocks, especially the principles wing which covered the physics behind electron and hole movements in electronic devices and other theories such as atoms and bonding and X-rays.

Block three was the block I was dreading but actually was the easiest as it was tought in a very structured way and covered some very interesting subjects. The parts on fluidic systems within the techniques wing was difficult as the material on that was fairly thin.

The exam was fairly tough going but thorough revision and looking back at past papers is a must.

Overall I got a very good mark and was happy.

Andrew Scott

Course starting: January 2012

Review posted: December 2012

I enjoyed this course a lot, especially the biological materials towards the end - surprising since I've only studied mathematics and physics subjects in the past!

The books are rather slim in comparison to some other 30-point courses that I've taken, but certain sections are quite 'dense'. That said, the amount of time I needed to study them each week wasn't particularly excessive.

The four assignments involved a lot more writing than mathematics, and I found myself downloading a lot of scientific papers from the OU library to read. This was something I'd never had to do in any of the Level 1 & 2 courses I've taken, and it improved my understanding of the material a great deal.

The exam wasn't anything surprising - in the sections I attempted it was more a case of writing concisely rather than doing calculations or manipulating equations. As the previous reviewer states, only 2 of 98 people got a distinction on it, but they probably worked too hard! Indeed, there were 81 students who achieved 40% and upwards, which seems perfectly adequate.

In summary, a good introduction to Nanotechnology. However, the field is still rapidly developing, so it cannot (and doesn't try to) cover everything.

Course starting: January 2009

Review posted: January 2010

The course topics are very interesting for those interested in semi conductor fabrication and photoconductors / capacitors.

I thoroughly enjoyed this course; it would have been awesome to have a residential school for this. I studied rather hard for this course and found the exam tough; nevertheless I did walk away with a distinction which was surprising. The course is tough though, only 2 out of 98 people got a distinction.

I initially found the biological components a bit boring and was not keen on them; however in the exam I ended up answering the question for the last section covering biological technologies.

If you want to do well in this course, you will need to put in some time and it can be easily accompanied by another 30 point course for sure.
The level of maths required is not so high as I thought it would be, a lot of engineering equations to learn.

Highly Recommended!

Romiko Van de Dronker

Course starting: January 2009

Review posted: January 2010

The materials for the course were of a high standard. The number of pages of reading were fewer than on some other courses I have studied, but the pages took longer to read. Each block had three books that were to be studied in parallel, i.e the main text, the Principles Wing and the Techniques Wing. I found this a bit disconcerting at times, as you effectively had three textbooks on the go at the same time. However, I suppose it follows "normal" university courses, where you may have to consult books by different authors to cover the same topic.

The course fell into three distinct blocks, of which the first two seemed to be what you might expect on a course such as this. Some of the material about optoelectronic devices in Block 2 was quite complicated, but I found that I only had to get the general idea of what was going on, rather than having to perfectly understand all the underlying principles. Block 3, which dealt with how biology could be used to embrace small-scale engineering techniques threw me a bit, as my relevant biological experience before the course began was nil. Once again, I used the principle of just learning enough to get by.

At the end of the course, I felt that there were huge swathes that I hadn't grasped and I was very apprehensive on my way to the exam centre. The exam questions didn't really link up too closely with the TMAs and I felt that I was having to rely on common sense answers too much. I left the centre thinking that I was nowhere near the 40% pass mark, but I think the examiners must have been very generous, because my score was well clear of this hurdle.

This course was to some extent a leap in the dark for me. Probably as a result of this, there were certain times where there were some fundamental points where the penny didn't immediately drop. This cost me a few hours on a couple of TMAs and this was a bit frustrating. We were advised by the forum moderator not to use the course forum sparingly and this sometimes made me feel a bit isolated, especially as there were only two tutorials - right at the beginning of the course and right at the end. The moderator wanted us to contact our tutors when we were stuck. The moderator was actually my tutor(!) and he was very helpful. However, I suppose I would have been more forthcoming about asking questions, if we had not been warned off using the forum.

Compared to others attending my tutorials, I found this course quite difficult in some respects and this was probably not unconnected with my lack of previous knowledge of the subject matter. I was surprised that the level of maths and electrical knowledge required for a Level 3 engineering course was not very significant.

James Graham Macdonald

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: January 2009

I found the course well structured and user friendly. The course material was laid out very clearly and easy to follow. The supplementary material is a must study and gives good background to the subject.

I personally felt that the science in the course was kept to a level where a student who has not studied science beyond Level 1 would cope hence ideal for the engineering or technology students. Having said that, a knowledge of some biology at the cellular level would make life easier although the course material covers what you need very well.

I feel sure that anyone studying any of the related sciences at Level 3 would particularly enjoy the course. My tip would be to make sure you understand the techniques and principals.

Michael Gillham

Course starting: February 2006

Review posted: March 2007

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Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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