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Understanding Superstructures

Discover the mechanics behind the natural and man-made structures that make up our world with this free online course.

1,615 enrolled on this course

A building with multicoloured lights.
  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Despite being surrounded by both man-made and natural structures, we don’t often think about what it takes to keep them standing.

This course will introduce the mechanics of solids and structures that govern the performance of these essential structures.

Get an introduction to the mechanics of superstructures

Using everyday engineering examples you’ll explore the mechanics of structures, looking at purpose, material and form and learning how forces flow. We’ll ask and try and answer questions like: does form follow structure?

Understand stress analysis

Super structures must contend with plenty to stay standing - we’ll investigate some of these factors like stress and strain, shells, strain energy and torsion. Plus we’ll look further at how these structures are kept together, covering topics like cantilever beams; bending moments and shear forces; equilibrium and compatibility; structural hierarchy, stress concentration factors, material behaviour and fracture and fatigue.

Learn about design issues

As we’re looking at stress analysis we’ll also examine design issues that can lead to bigger problems for super structures, and find out about how structures can be designed for resilience. Finally we’ll look at the impact unknown risk can have on structures - paying attention to things like climate change and extreme events.

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What topics will you cover?

  • Form & function: purpose, material & form; how forces flow; form-finding structures; free-body diagrams; tensegrity structures.
  • Freedom & energy: degrees of freedom; definitions of deformation, strain and stress; membrane stresses; strain energy; torsion and shear stress.
  • Keeping it all together: shear forces and bending moments; flexural stress; compatibility of displacement; statically indeterminate structures.
  • Material details, an introductions to: Mohr’s circle; material response; structural materials; biological materials; stress concentrations; fracture & fatigue.
  • Risk & resilience: dynamic loading; finite element analysis; limit states; damage tolerance; residual stresses; complex systems.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate rudimentary knowledge, understanding and skills of stress analysis
  • Summarise basic knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of structures.
  • Discuss design issues associated with structures

Who is the course for?

You don’t need any prior knowledge of this subject but you will need GCSE-level or equivalent knowledge of physics and maths.

Who will you learn with?

Engineer, educator & author. I hold the AA Griffith Chair in Structural Materials & Mechanics at the University of Liverpool. Read my blog at RealizeEngineering.Wordpress.com to find out more.

Who developed the course?

University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool is ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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