Prepare for University - Engineering

Stage: 5 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Here we collect 10 essential engineering problems to get you thinking before you embark on your degree. We recommend that you try them over the summer before starting university as they will give you a good mathematical grounding in the topics likely to arise in your degree course.

Remember, these problems are designed to make you think and there is not necessarily a 'right' answer. Approach them in a thoughtful way; they are hopefully both interesting and stimulating. What questions do they raise in you mind? Where do these questions lead you? Take them to a level that feels comfortable for you.

Finally, once you have done the problems, study the solutions. These will give you additional insights into the problems and the underlying mathematics and physics.


Approximately certain Well-reasoned estimates and carefully considered approximations are crucial in engineering. Here you can hone these skills whilst drawing on your knowledge of science and mathematics.
Dam Busters 1 This problem will help you to review your kinematics by giving a different approach to the standard problem of motion of a projectile. A follow-on problem is available on the engNRICH pages.
Dangerous Driver? This problem provides a situation in which you can draw your skills of mechanics and modelling together in a study of time and motion.
Bridge builder Statics in a critical concept in engineering. Here you can explore how tensions and thrusts interact in a static structure, which will develop your skills with vectors. A follow-on problem is available on the engNRICH pages.
Building up friction School concepts of modelling will be refined and made more realistic in university contexts. Here you can explore how friction can complicate modelling matters.
Powerfully fast Power is critical concept. Explore power to weight ratios and its implications in various settings.
Adding machine Develop your skills with logic gates by building a binary adder.
Mach attack You will need to have clear recording and visualising to be able to represent the sound waves propogating from these aeroplanes.
NOT another NAND Logic gates underlie the workings of the computer. Find out here which gates form the basic logical unit from which all others can be built.
Pattern recognition This problem will thoroughly test your pattern spotting and systematic experimentation and problem solving skills as you try to reverse-engineer the algorithm the computer uses firstly to identify a pattern and secondly to determine if it is likely to be random.


These articles will be of interest:

Who Is an Engineer? A Quick Perspective After One Year of a University Engineering Course

AC/DC circuits